For the past two weeks, the good folks who run the Village News have kindly run “classic” columns in this space. There were reasons for my absence – technological, weather-related, family, etc. – but the best and simplest explanation is that I went through a phase where I couldn’t face “the blank page.”
Apparently, this year, a lot of people on Facebook are participating in a “Thirty Days of Thanksgiving” movement. This strikes me as a fine idea. It sure beats starting Christmas immediately after Halloween, as the stores would have us do.
I was a little kid during the Eisenhower administration, when men were men and Republicans were rational. Like most little kids, I spent a few years trying to get my way about everything – employing age-old tactics in the process.
For years, I’ve been a proponent of using eight pivotal days of the year as optimum times to make life changes. Major or minor, changes seem easier if made in accordance with these eight days, which have been celebrated by agriculturally-based societies since ancient times.
I don’t know nearly enough about Iran, but I’m working on it. I have picked up a little bit over the years, though, and that little bit tells me that the handful of experts calling for a rapprochement with Iran are onto something.
Though he now seems likely to be distracted by the mess in Syria – the consequence of several years of principled procrastination – President Obama has spent much of August on a strategically-timed campaign aimed at the problem of soaring college education costs.
On the day after Christmas – Boxing Day for Canadians and Anglophiles – I will have been a professional, freelance journalist for ten years. (If the crick don’t rise, that is. At 62, I assume nothing).
One of the great fallacies in modern educational thought is the baseless assumption that the present generation – with its limited knowledge of the past and understanding of the present – can accurately forecast what skills and knowledge will be useful to a younger generation moving toward an inscrutable future.
By now, most Americans who don’t live in a cave have heard something - however vague – about MOOCs. MOOC is short for “massive open online course”. Several consortia offer these courses – Coursera being perhaps the best known.
The Obama administration is engaged in the sort of mental gymnastics it usually adopts before making a big decision. The administration is “discovering” the shocking fact that Syria’s ruthless autocrat, Bashar al-Assad, has been using chemical weapons against his own people.
In the past, I have argued that our educational establishment – and the public at large – have lost sight of why we have schools. It seems strange to ask the question, but only because we all take the answer for granted.
Five weeks ago, America passed the centennial of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration as America’s 28th President. Remarkably, no one made much of a fuss.
Understand, I’m not going to get on my high horse about this. I’d be ashamed to.
Earlier in this series, I urged that Chesterfield invite neighboring jurisdictions to join in creating a regional governor’s school for highly-gifted students in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.
Last week, on my blog, Gray’s Gazette, I posted twice concerning Hollingsworth v. Perry – taking what is, for me, a difficult position. For constitutional reasons, as well as considerations of practical politics, I believe progressives and liberals should hope for a Supreme Court decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 - but not creating a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.
Today, let’s resume our discussion of ideas for improving Chesterfield’s public schools. Thus far, we’ve focused on ways of improving STEM education, with discursions into education for the extremely gifted and preparing disadvantaged children to start school.
Last Wednesday, I was subbing at Stuart Hall - a private school two blocks from my house in Staunton. During sixth period, a trusted student had been using a laptop to show Chemistry podcasts on a screen.
Having devoted two weeks to the education of the highly-gifted, let’s turn our attention to improving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for children who are not part of the intellectual 1 percent.
Before moving on to the next topic, I should stop to offer a few thoughts about the consequences of acceleration as a model for educating gifted youngsters. I do this largely in response to a thoughtful e-mail from a Village News reader who – while he liked the idea of a STEM governor’s school...
In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for further Federal efforts to help states and localities “to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy... and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math...”
So, the debate has begin. After three decades of silence, those Americans who favor reasonable limits on the availability of weapons have finally begun to speak up. The primary tactic of the NRA - using political intimidation to silence debate - has, at least for the moment, been overcome by the sheer revulsion of millions of Americans over the massacre of school children.
Over Christmas, I enjoyed the rare chance to spend five days and nights at the family place. I’d originally planned to come down for a night, join in the exchange of gifts and the Christmas feast, spend a little time with family, and check up on Mom.
In 1941, December 7 became a “date that will live in infamy.” Over time, that date has gradually lost the taint of infamy – to be replaced quiet remembrance of those who died that day, and warm pride in the fact our country survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, rallied to the task before it, and triumphed.
Every family has its black sheep. For all our modern, technologically-aided efforts to surround ourselves only with those who echo our own beliefs - and thus live unchallenged, unexamined lives – few can escape the ties of consanguinity.
I’m writing this on the morning after Thanksgiving. Before the mood fades, I’ll murmur a quick word of thanks for The New York Times. In an era of dying print dailies, the Times continues offering excellent national and international news; extensive reportage on the arts, entertainment, and books; great sports coverage (including hometown coverage of the lamentable Jets); and the best op-ed page in print.
Forgive me if I’ve told this one before, but I like it:
Two jungle explorers walk into a clearing, only to confront an enormous tiger entering from the other side. One explorer drops his backpack and begins putting on running shoes. The second explorer says, “Friend, you’ll never outrun that tiger.” The first explorer says, “I don’t need to outrun the tiger. I need to outrun you.”
Two weeks ago, residents of central Virginia outran New Jersey and New York.
Last week, my sister and her family said goodbye to a gallant dog named Cypher. Part pit bull and all heart, Cypher was the sort of calm, intelligent, companionable fellow who has earned dogs their reputation as humankind’s best friends.
As I write this, I’m thinking a good deal about Time.
It’s Thursday night, and, because fall break begins tonight, I’m now halfway through the semester – with a good deal less than half the work done.
After five weeks of grad school, I’m beginning to adapt to a world in which most of the inhabitants care more about Shakespeare (and Marlowe, and Jonson, and Middleton) than they do about, say, the Election of 2012.
As a personal matter, I’ve always been good at school. After all, I have exactly the sort of intelligence – bookish, clever with words, analytical – that gratifies teachers and earns A’s. I can sit through the driest lecture, looking interested while unobtrusively reading a book tucked away beneath the edge of my desk.
We all know the feeling. You’ve made up your mind to support a candidate for public office. Maybe you’ve done some volunteer work, sent in a contribution or poked a yard-sign into your lawn. Maybe you’ve simply done your civic duty – studying the candidates and issues as time permitted and making a firm decision who will get your vote.
We Americans are justifiably proud of the brave young men and women in uniform who stand ready, on short notice, to risk their lives for our country. On every national holiday, we remind ourselves of their sacrifice – the sacrifices of past generations of uniformed warriors.
Last week, in this space, I got a bit rough with America’s two major parties. True, nothing I wrote was remotely as harsh as the ads now polluting every corner of our public space. But it was strong, coming from me, because frankly, I’m disgusted with both parties and their lack of constructive vision.
One of my favorite legends from English history is that of King Canute, the eleventh-century Danish warrior-king whose reign briefly interrupted the rise of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy begun by Alfred the Great.
With four months to go in this, America’s most expensive presidential campaign, it’s still impossible to predict whether President Obama will withstand the determined challenge of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Thursday morning, after CNN and Fox briefly muddied the waters, Americans learned that the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act, including its “individual mandate”. Chief Justice John Roberts had pulled together enough votes to sustain nearly all of the health care law.
Over the past two weeks, a fierce controversy has erupted over the forced resignation of UVA president, Teresa Sullivan. Apparently, Sullivan’s “resignation” was engineered by three members of the sixteen-member Board of Visitors - without public discussion or input, or even an intelligible explanation of what she might have done wrong.
When I first ventured into acting, I was 42 years old. I had practiced law, headed an agency of state government, taught high school history for seven years and served as an assistant principal for one.
Recently, in this space, I have challenged our superintendent’s plan to “reform” education in Chesterfield’s public schools. After three columns on that topic, I’m going to give it a break in hopes that parents, teachers and others with more at stake will take up the banner.
Veteran teachers know that new educational initiatives, handed down periodically from on high, are almost inevitably a waste of time. Most also understand the political motives which result in such initiatives.
Two weeks ago, I attended a School Board work session with the intention of writing a news article. I was a bit uncertain exactly what might be discussed, since the sole item on the public agenda was a presentation on “Design for Excellence 2020”, by Donna Dalton, of the CCPS staff.
A month ago, I started a column in which I attempted to puzzle out why the Republican Party was preparing to nominate a man who, apparently, lacks the ability to connect with ordinary Americans. For at that time, it seemed, Mitt Romney’s nomination was all but assured.
Over the past few months, on behalf of this newspaper, I’ve had a chance to sit in on a couple of work sessions of the School Board, as well as interviewing two newly-elected members of that body. In the months to come, I hope to do a good deal more in this line.
I’ve never much liked January 1 as a time for starting new ventures. As I’ve noted in past columns, I don’t see the sense in calling upon extraordinary reserves of energy and self-discipline at this time of the natural year.