Saturday, September 20, 2008

A new spot.....

I finally feel completely betrayed by Nanny's. They promised live music last night and I was excited to visit for my birthday with Paddy and my wife. The music never came. So we walked down the street to the Zoo Bar about 11:00 and enjoyed ourselves completely with a bit of participatory blues music. I actually joined in though I had my usual trouble keeping the beat but it was great fun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Germans did invade the Netherlands---

I agree Paddy that the armor thrust through the Ardennes was a "sickle cut" that trapped the allied troops in the low countries. Army group C(I think) invaded the Netherlands with other flanking movements in Denmark and Norway. The Netherlands invasion enticed the allies to move into the low country to resist the German drive which made the "up the gut" sickle cut work. It was concieved by Guderian. Here is a battle map. I admit to being wrong about the curve of the sickle cut but not about the idea of invading the Netherlands to draw the allies into the low countries. Rommel commanded the 7th Panzer Division in the 15th Panzer Corps in the French Invasion. His division became known at the "Ghost" or "Phantom" division.

Just a Start - I hate ignornace - this is the cut up the gut through the Ardennes

he German Army was divided into three army groups:

  • Army Group A commanded by Gerd von Rundstedt, composed of 45½ divisions including seven armoured, was to execute the decisive movement, cutting a"Sichelschnitt" — not the official name of the operation but the translation in German of a phrase after the events coined by Winston Churchill[20] as "Sickle Cut" (and even earlier "armoured scythe stroke"[21]) — through the Allied defenses in the Ardennes. It consisted of three armies: the Fourth, Twelfth and Sixteenth. It had three Panzer corps; one, XV Army Corps, had been allocated to the Fourth Army, but the other two — XXXXI Army Corps including the 2nd Motorised Infantry Division and XIX Army Corps — were united, together with XIV Army Corps of two motorised infantry divisions, on a special independent operational level in Panzergruppe Kleist. This was done to better coordinate the approach march to the Meuse river; once bridgeheads had been established they had again to be divided among Twelfth and Sixteenth Army andPanzergruppe Kleist abolished.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Books Sarah Palin would ban

A friend of mine named Anne posted this list on Facebook....this list is from the minutes of the Library Board meeting of the small town that Sarah presided over in Alaska.....I guess she was commander in chief of the Libary police also.

From the minutes of the Wasilla, Alaska, Library Board meeting.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster
Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Blog post I wish I had written......

From the Blog

Beyond School
by Clay Burrell

When Corrupting the Youth is Good!

“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read!”
So he vanished from my sight,
And I plucked a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stained the water clear,
And I wrote my happy song,
Every child may joy to hear.
–William Blake, Songs of Innocence

“And I stained the water clear”: look at that line a few times, and see the beauties of that exquisitely ambiguous modifier, “clear.” It’s a line to cherish.1 And it has to do with the thoughts below - after which, in the next post, we’ll get to an also exquisite sacred sex scene (and I’d like to call it a love scene to avoid the appearance of sensationalism, but it’s not a love scene) from Gilgamesh, along with laughs, I hope, about trying to teach it to today’s teens, in today’s classrooms. But first, an interlude:

When “Corrupting the Youth” is Good
“Good people” can be dangerous.

Socrates and Jesus, for example, in the eyes of the “good people” of their times, were both criminals. 2 They were criminals because they challenged those good people’s conventional views of religion, of the sacred, of moral right and wrong.

How do you know?
They both attacked the gods of their day. Socrates questioned both the truth and the righteousness of the Olympians; and Jesus (though less consistently) similarly questioned the teachings and the righteousness of the Hebrew priests and the “good” church mosque temple-going Christians Muslims Jews around him. Both were reviled by the good people back then, and both paid with their lives for the same “sin”: critical thinking. The good Athenians killed Socrates with poison, the good Hebrews - the Romans, actually - killed Jesus on the cross.

(Since this crucifixion episode, by the way, has been used to justify Christian Antisemitism and the slaughter of Jews for over a thousand years, I have to add this point to keep my conscience clean: Jesus may not have been crucified at all; he may not, in fact, have ever lived at all, according to many serious scholars.3 It’s a fascinating question for those who care to think critically about important things. If it’s true, after all, that means the Jews were framed and persecuted by the Christians for an execution that never happened, and that American voters today are electing leaders on the basis of faith in a phantom.)

Today, we do well to revere Socrates and Jesus for pushing human thought forward. We would also do well, though, to see their examples as reminders of something else we tend to forget: namely, that good people of any age often appear, in historical hindsight, to be the opposite of good. Again, good people - pious people - killed these two men.

Socrates today is held up to students as the model of that practice called “critical thinking.” But in his own day, that very act, critical thinking, led to criminal charges against him for this : “Corrupting the young by teaching new gods.”

Look at that. Socrates was killed why? Because the adults in his society didn’t like the questions he was entertaining with their kids - about religion. He was killed for asking, around young people, what we all see as a common sense question today - “Why do we believe in Zeus?”4

As a teacher who loves common sense, finds it less common than we think, and loves the idea of giving more of it than of grammar to the young in my classrooms, that story has always made me nervous.

I love critical thinking for many reasons, but the biggest one is this: it requires, always, an honest awareness in the thinker that he or she may be wrong. Socrates, while less a hero of mine due to recent readings I’ve done about his politics, still wins my respect with this classic one-liner:

I only know that I know nothing.
Scientists understand the wisdom of that statement, and so do philosophers. Priests and their “good people” followers, though, show no understanding of this wisdom. They assert truth-claims without evidence, and worse, they attack modern-day versions of Socrates and Jesus for thinking critically about their beliefs.

Schools are very bad places for a teacher to promote critical thinking about anything important. The cliché “critical thinking” in schools is only allowed for safe subjects - an oxymoron I’ve mentioned many times in these pages. Touch a subject that will offend a single parent or student, and your job is at stake. That’s why so many classes are so boring. They refuse to acknowledge the many elephants in the room, or to state that the emperor is wearing no clothes - especially when it comes to whichever god and flag are flying above your country.

And that’s why so many types of hugely influential beliefs that make no sense persist today. Kids go through twelve years of school without those beliefs ever being touched by a serious question, they graduate, and bam: the beliefs live on for yet another generation: Bush really is communicating with God, while in the same universe, Bin Laden, in another country’s school system, really is obeying the Word and will of Allah. McCain and Obama consent to be interviewed on national TV with Rick Warren, and thus legitimize a man whose ministry supported a “Left Behind” video game in which post-Rapture Christians kill non-Christians on the streets of New York - and they’re the good guys. To question these things is not important?

I say it is. We see the Crusades of the first and second millennia being re-played now in the third. Maybe questioning will reduce their chances of continuing into the fourth, if we make it that far.

* * *

Critical Thinking as a Litmus Test
Reading the comments on my last post (the first Gilgamesh essay), and of the people who also commented on it on StumbleUpon,5 it occurs to me that critical thinkers serve as litmus tests for the people who disagree with them. They fall into two categories: those who challenge the thinking, and thus pass the test and prove themselves fellow critical thinkers; and those who attack the thinker instead of the ideas, and thus fail the test and show themselves to be non-critical thinkers, like the poisoners and crucifiers of old. Thank goodness free speech is now protected by law.

If the first Gilgamesh “lecture” had happened in a classroom instead of here, those non-critical thinkers would have been demanding my resignation - because they don’t want their children to think beyond what they, the parents, believe. 6 It’s funny how parents don’t care if their kid goes more deeply into, say, math than them; that’s fine. But have my kid go more deeply - and more critically - into religion than I ever did? Into politics and my country’s history? That’s a different beast altogether. As a rule, parents aren’t okay with that at all.

So that’s the challenge to critical thinking in so many of our classrooms today, and a reason for its boredom-inducing absence. If only teachers felt secure in speaking their minds, there could be incredible discussions in classrooms.

And for the record: I share my questions about sacred cows not because I delight in doing “ee-vil.” We may as well accuse Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, Martin Luther, Copernicus, Voltaire, Darwin, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and millions of other reformists dead and alive of “loving evil” for imagining - and speaking of - better visions of the Good or more sensible versions of the True.

I share these questions because first, I love asking them; second, it’s my way of supporting others who are asking them; and third, imperfect as all of us are, I believe these questions have vital value for happiness, intelligence, well-being, and, um, education. In my eyes, as much as your preachers or your parents, I am trying to do good. I’m just doing it by my own lights, instead of by the teachings of childhood. I left those teachings long ago, by reading more than the preachers showed me. (I also discovered, in the cult of the early Christian leader Valentinus, an extinct version of Christianity I actually admire. It’s almost Buddhist. See Princeton religious historian Elaine Pagels’ eye-opening, and very readable, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas for more.)

How can we think? Magic-based science (Creation Museum, Kentucky, USA)
And then there’s the issue of fairness. Millions of preachers clog the airwaves daily with their claims. Creationists attack science and infest science classrooms and textbooks. It’s only fair that equal time is given to those of us who want to challenge them with critical thinking.

My last point: Critical thinking can “corrupt the youth” on one condition: that youth fail to think critically themselves, as they read. As long as the young think - chew - before swallowing this, or any, adult’s words, they’re not “corrupted” at all. No matter what those adults say.

I don’t know if any of this helped “stain the waters clear.” I hope it did.

* * *

Now on to more fun with Gilgamesh, one of the wisest and - in the “sacred sex” scene that is the next post’s topic, also one of the most beautiful - books I’ve ever read.

Wait a minute. It just hit me. My god, I’m about to discuss the oldest sex scene in the history of mankind. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

It should be up in a day or two.

Please keep the comments critical, and thanks for doing that in such a friendly way in the first post. And sorry for the length. This was no fun to write, but I had to get it out.

Photo credits: Human Questions by AmberflyKezzie ; Creation Museum by rauchdickson

If you like this post, please spread it: (But don't tag it "education." That will bury it.)

See the word as an adverb modifying “stained.” [↩]
They were both considered something like “bums” by the good people too - Socrates wore tatty clothes, Jesus was a homeless guy - but that’s a different story. [↩]
A comprehensive discussion of the evidence is laid out, among many other places, in a long chapter of The Pagan Christ: Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity?, by ex-minister and professor of New Testament Greek Tom Harpur, who seems to want to radically reform Christianity the way Jesus, if he did exist, wanted to radically reform Judaism. [↩]
It goes deeper than this, really, since many used it as a pretext for other grudges. But the interesting thing is that this pretext still held in a court of law, and it’s what he was convicted and killed for: teaching common sense. [↩]
and for the record, as I’ve already said, I agree that the tone in that post is lame at times, and will work on that, and find such feedback helpful, when polite [↩]
My own resignation was demanded once by a pair of parents - from a long line of preachers - for including the ideas of Bishop Spong as a contemporary descendant of Martin Luther in a history unit about the Reformation. Maybe I’ll tell that full story one day. Right now, I’ll just say that my assistant principal at the time commendably held firm and told them they were free to leave. Instead, they pulled their son from my class and put him with another teacher. No chance he think beyond his parents’ beliefs that way. [↩]
Unsucky English, Lecture 2: The Day I Thought Gilgamesh Would Cost Me My Job
Truly Critical: Thinking about Science, Religion, and Goodness
Unsucky English, Lecture 3: Adam and Eve, Backwards (Gilgamesh, Book One)
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Written by Clay Burell

August 29th, 2008 at 12:26 pm
Posted in censorship, history, language arts, politics, religion, school reform, science, teaching

Tagged with books, critical thinking
« Unsucky English, Lecture 1: On Gilgamesh, and Dangerous QuestionsUnsucky English, Lecture 2: The Day I Thought Gilgamesh Would Cost Me My Job »
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Unsucky English, Lecture 1: On Gilgamesh | Beyond School

30 Aug 08 at 1:09 am
Misplaced modifier? By today’s standards only, not when it was written.