I grew up in one of those Judeo-Christian homes that apparently strike terror in the hearts of the likes of Betty Friedan, Alan Grayson and Kathryn Joyce. My parents never had sex until they got married to each other. Theirs is an enduring...

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Beautiful Life

A friend of mine goes to work with this man's great-niece. (Otherwise I would've missed this great article.)

"Why a highest honor at University of Michigan med school is called the James Crudup Award."

What blows me away, is that while this man was obviously one of the best in the field, he didn't allow himself to grow bitter or resentful of the injustices leveled against him. Man, I would've-... I know myself too well. I probably would have refused to benefit the society that had offended me. I have to admire Mr. Crudup's character.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Remembering Terri Schiavo

A year ago March 18th, all means of sustenance were removed from a spirited disabled woman, as per the order of a probate judge. Armed law enforcement officers were assigned to ensure that no one could approach her with food or water. Less than two weeks later, a tortured, starving, dehydrated woman was relieved of this life and ushered into eternity, at the will of her estranged husband, and the signatory hand of a judge. Have we learned anything?

On September 11th, 2005, 11 yr. old Haleigh Poutre was admitted to the hospital, having been allegedly beaten over the head with a baseball bat, by her adoptive mother and step-father. She was found to be in a permanent vegetative state, and the Massachusetts Department of Social Services recommended she be dehydrated to death as well. The Massachusetts Supreme Court agreed.

But the Lord, in His mercy, intervened this time, allowing the nation to see the folly in declaring a person "brain dead".

Today Haleigh can eat scrambled eggs, and cream of wheat. She can indicate some of her needs and desires with her hands and fingers, and imitate rythymic patterns, all things that require the use of a brain. In short, if Haleigh's brain ever was dead, it isn't dead now.

HT: Pro-Life Blogs

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Smile! The Ticket's in the Mail

Jessica Hopkins at Keloland.com (Keloland TV), explores the controversy surrounding red-light cameras. Ron Branson, author of South Dakota's embattled Ammendment E (a safeguard against judicial tyranny), has a thoughtful take on the issue.

The courts around the country are uncertain how to
handle enforcement of red light cameras. Above are but
two different ways these camera are enforced, one being
is in Minnesota, and the other in South Dakota. In San
Diego, California a judge handled it another way. He
simple declared the red light cameras unconstitutional.

This raises the question, is there really a constitutionally
uniform way in which all red light camera cases must be
handled? The answer is yes, and that way is that there
must exist a sworn oath or affirmation signed by the
accuser against the accused to support Probable Cause
which must be determined by a magistrate. Upon such a
determination in the affirmative, there must be drawn up
an accusatory pleading by the People of the State of
Whatever, to which the accused may plea thereto or
demurrer based upon a jurisdictional defect. Upon a
determination that there exists jurisdiction for the court
to proceed to trial, such trial must be by jury in which the
accused shall be afforded the right to assistance of counsel,
to compel witnesses aid in his defense, and to cross-
examine his accuser. All of these measures are
constitutionally established principles to be afforded
every accused.

If you are thinking that such processes makes things
such as red light cameras expensive and difficult to
enforce, then you may be interested to know that this is
precisely what our Founding Fathers intended to prevent
repeating the oppression inflicted upon them when they
wrote the Declaration of Independence, "He has erected
a multitude of new offices [Red Light Cameras], and sent
hither swarms of officers to harass our People, and eat out
their substance [by tickets imposed by cashier justice].

Further, by mandating jury trials for everyone accused by
their government of minor matters, they sought to keep
the enforcement of crimes to those truly mandating the
attention of the People of the community.

-Ron Branson

Monday, March 13, 2006

What a debate!

Not every family that leaves God in charge of the family-planning department will be able to have children. Some will never have a child. Some may only be given one or maybe four. Friends of ours fall into each of those categories. Their childbearing days are over, without any preventive measures on their part.

Take one family that is blessed with several children, as in sixteen, in short order, eighteen years (highly unusual) and put them on national TV. That really makes people think- hard. Some people even blow a fuse over it.

Here are two great debates, here and here in the comments following these posts. These ones are sane, but I didn't read the rant that sparked the original discussion.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Speaking of math...

...and of which subjects should be required, here's a quote from John Adams that caught my eye.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain. -John Adams

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Algebra Part Two- Should Algebra Be Required?

(Don't miss part one: "How Useful Is Algebra?")

Algebra is useful. So are a lot of other disciplines. It's useful to know engineering. It's useful to know medicine or computer programming. It's useful to know web design, or speak a second language fluently. It's useful to be proficient with a musical instrument, to know the ins-and-outs of auto mechanics, to know midwifery or be able to build a house. There is a lot of necessary knowledge in the world, but each person can't be required to learn everything, just because it's necessary that somebody know it.

I would encourage algebra, as an elective, like sewing, music, mechanics and web design, not up there with reading, writing and basic math. It's one of those activities that some young people take a natural interest in, but shun the moment you add the label "school". Dangle it in front of the child like a carrot in front of a mule, and it will become a consuming desire. Require it and the child will balk.

Of course, there are exceptions to this prediction- like me. I was forced. And I eventually like it- sort of the Green Eggs and Ham story.

God has designed each person to fill a purpose, and He has equipped each person with the necessary capacity to fill that purpose. God is big enough to design people with a greater interest, or aptitude for the skills required to fulfill that person's purpose. Is it wise to try to plug people into man-made holes, which God never designed for them to fit in?

Children are people too. And people are born to be free. We have found we can live together, the sixteen of us, in 1300 sq. ft., and still like each other, largely because Dad insists that if it isn't necessary, it isn't required. Necessary, in his book, would be developing a right relationship with the Lord, learning how to relate correctly to other people, having good character (I just repeated myself), a good attitude and a good work ethic (again). He requires us to learn to read, write, and figure (whole numbers, decimals and fractions).

Amazingly, when only the necessary is required, that leaves extra time and energy, and the other useful-but-not-necessary is learned as well. If a child is exposed to rich experiences and then left to be bored silly for awhile, he will develop a distaste for boredom. (No cheating allowed- where TV and computer games abound, valuable, genuine boredom is hard to come by.)

Eliminate or restrict TV and computers, require a lot of hands-on labor, reserve time for boredom, and make sure an Algebra text is the only reading material on hand for a month- or better yet, introduce the formulas that people actually use in their work, for instance, "Here's how to find voltage" - and you could be really surprised what interests develop. They might not be Algebra, but then again, that might not be a bad thing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Algebra Part One- How Useful Is Algebra, Really?

My brother asked me to tackle this topic. He would give it his own treatment, but he's on a small team, attempting to complete a quality kitchen remodel in five days or less. This was day three. He's in bed.

(Sorry. I wrote this last night. It's now day 4. He just got home- 9:25pm.)

Richard Cohen has apparently published two rants against requiring Algebra in highschool. His recent one is here. Someone I like a lot, has linked to two rebuttals, here, and here.

I took algebra. I loved it. It was the first time I ever really liked math. Granted, it made my brain hurt, but I was able to grasp it, and turn in accurate answers.

But before I require anyone else to study algebra, I'd better know that it would be a wise use of their time. (Gabriela, in the story, spent six highschool courses at it. That's a lot of time!) So I started asking around. I asked a friend who was majoring in math, to be a math teacher. I asked another friend who invented a machine that carves beautiful stair balisters if you program it to. I searched Google for variations of "using algebra".

I got some answers like these:

It can help you to grasp the character and attributes of God (Eighteen years of ATI showed me that any subject can, if you can think in analogies, and don't insist they line up perfectly).

It helps you to order your thought process. It most certainly does this. So does the study of sentence diagramming, Latin grammar, music theory, logic, studying composition, keeping a journal, and cleaning the house. So does meditating on Scripture, for that matter. Are we going to make all of these required subjects, just because they increase our thinking skills?

It teaches you problem solving. Sure it does. I was terrible at solving problems before I took algebra. Now I solve them according to an ordered set of rules. Just ask my family. This is a terrible way to solve the dilemmas I encounter in city traffic. "Just wait... There's a car coming from the left. That means... Oh! Now there are two cars coming from the right. They're traveling at different speeds from each other. I think they'll have reached this intersection at... too late. Now, there is a whole line of headlights..." They think algebra ruined me. :) The other family members are excellent at problem solving, without any algebra at all.

And it can be used to instill good character, such as the determination to keep trying, even when failure seems imminent. So can a number of other pursuits. If there is so little work to be done around your house that your children are growing up without building character, then I guess you have to think up something to make them exert themselves. But algebra isn't necessary to build character. In fact, it's no guarantee. Many highly-educated people enter the work force without ever having learned good character.

It broadens your vocabulary, increases your ability to communicate...

You get the idea. Actually, I'd thought up about a dozen of these "reasons" myself, before asking around, and I could come up with more if you want me to. But if this fellow human being is probably never going to use algebra, why not find some other discipline or two that will achieve these other objectives?

I did find some uses of algebra (no thanks to the math teachers I talked to).

My dad and brothers use it to wire temperature control systems for buildings housing temperature-sensitive work, such as JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories), and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

A friend's mom uses algebra to cut out garments that fit perfectly the first time, every time. She used algebra to cut garments for Nancy Reagan. The garments she cut would normally sell for $1,000 a piece, or maybe $1,500 for a two piece set.

Another friend told me he uses algebra everyday, in his job as a computer programmer.

I've read that nurses use algebra to calculate the dosage of medicine for each patient.

And I used algebra to discover how to figure percent, which I had forgotten how to do. (sheepish grin) (I haven't needed to figure percent all that often, I guess.)

But in all of these disciplines (maybe not the computer programmer...), the algebra required could be learned in a few hours, by someone who never even took algebra- let alone passed it. For instance, my dad didn't understand algebra in school, and none of my brothers took it, yet they had no difficulty learning what they needed to use to wire a house correctly.

Of course engineers and scientists are a necessary part of our society, and there are other fields of work that require algebra, but these fields will be probably not be filled by people who hated algebra.

Algebra is useful. It's even necessary that some people learn it. But should it be a standard requirement for highschool graduation? That is part two.

Three new piano students

"I need to start teaching so-and-so to play by ear."

"Oh, don't teach her!"

"I need to. Otherwise-"

"I mean, don't teach her how."

When my piano students practice every day, I love to talk about their progress. Besides, the input I get from my family influences my teaching method. So I was talking...

"Why is it that the children of the piano teacher...", she dropped off. "You know, like the doctor's children, and the children of the shoemaker don't have any shoes?"

"And the plumber's wife has a leaky faucet?", I finished. "Do you want piano lessons?"

A resounding yes came from all around the room. Never mind the fact that I don't have any children.

P.S. I plan to teach them to play by ear too, even if I have to teach them how to do it.

A day in the life of number 14

Since I was little, I dreamed of following a baby's development through the first year for BabyTalk magazine. I was an avid reader of BabyTalk. It came free with our cloth diaper service, and I read anything I could get my hands on.

Don't you think it would be cute to feature a tenth child one year? How about a fourteenth?

The littlest one here is well over a year now. She's twenty-two months. :c( (This is the first time in over a quarter century that the youngest of us was that old.) She has "developed" a personality, communication skills, job skills, quality relationships, awareness of her surroundings, appreciation for the arts, ... Oh, alright. She has- if we want to use clinical terms.

She wakes up between 6:30 and 7:30. Dad takes her out of bed and hands her the cell phone, so she can play all his ring tones.

Then she wanders into our bedroom and tells the three-year old good morning. She caresses her next-up sister's face, gently pats her on the arm, making soft, pretty little unintelligible greeting language. The display of affection lasts several minutes.

Next, the baby of the family succumbs to instinct. She goes in search of food. Her barefeet patter purposefully through the whole house. Any person out of bed will do. She makes all kinds of polite beseeching sounds and gestures. She may take their hand and attempt to pull them toward the kitchen. She may ask them to pick her up, then she leans toward the kitchen. She directs them to the refrigerator.

"Do you want oatmeal?", they ask.

"Oatmeal", she repeats, matter-of-factly.

She stands, eager, belly protruding, gently rocking back and forth, while oatmeal is prepared. She's learned to predict parts of the routine like the highchair and bib. She goes over to her highchair, and reaches up for her bib (if she notices the oatmeal-maker intends to use a highchair and bib).

She consumes the first several bites greedily, with intense concentration on her food. Then she makes the happiest, most enthusiastic little speech of thanks and delight, which continues the rest of the meal. (That is, if the food keeps coming until she's full.)

After breakfast she is content to play for a few minutes. Then she seeks someone to help her again. Once she gets their attention, she points to the front door and begs, "Outside?". When the request is denied because no one is available to play with her, she makes a few piercing screams, "OUTSIDE!!!! OUTSIDE!!!", which dissolve into wails, which result in a late morning nap.

Which is just about right, because she is in the sweetest spirits when she wakes up, asking for lunch.

The rest of the day is not as consistent. She is doted on, plays with her brothers and sisters, looks at picture books and tells us about the pictures, scoots up to the table and asks for a pencil and paper while we work on writing and math skills, plays with dolls, pretends to give concerts with the fireplace tools (doesn't matter which tool- it's always a guitar), spends some time outside, goes to the beach and watches the waves, plays with other small children who come over, watches movies with us (she likes ones with animals), different things on different days.

Then every evening, as the older half of the family comes in from their respective places of work (mostly in clusters- often we fill a few vehicles and they all go to the same jobsite), she greets each person individually, with a bright grin and an exclamation of joy, communicating that she missed them and is glad to have them back.