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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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Normal Content

I did intend to research the November 2nd election, and I did intend to post my findings.

I did vote, and I was happy with the information I had to vote with. But I did not have it in time (nor did I have time) to put it up here beforehand.

After the fact, though, look what happened.

Ron Paul's name appears in the mainstream news.

Some middle-of-the-road Republicans were dumped in exchange for conservative ones, Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida) and Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky), and forty tea-party backed freshman representatives will join Congress. There is some considerable debate over tea party-backed candidates who are actually moderates, but I think I scratched my supporting article because of crass remarks in the comments section.

Economics is currently an extremely hot topic.

The divide between the right and the left appears to grow sharper and more impassable, while another growing group sides fiercely with the ACLU on issues like airport body scans and fiercely with the Christian Fundamentalists on things like abstinence education, though no thousand members of the group appear to agree on which issues to align fiercely with.

In the Governor's race in California, more than 9% of Trinity County voted third party. More than 7% of San Bernardino County also did so. Marin County cast the lowest percentage of third party votes in California at 2.4%. Even Los Angeles County gave almost 5% of its votes to third party candidates (4.8%). Statewide a full 5.1% of voters indicated that neither the Republican nor the Democrat candidate had satisfied the requirements to earn their vote. Had the race been much closer, this increase in third party activity (rejection of the status quo) would have drawn considerable attention, but the Democrats did win California soundly.

The pro-education, anti-crime campaign rhetoric of the past is losing its popularity, as indicated by this Republican campaign website that actually addresses issues, and expresses opinions on them.

Perhaps a fiercely divided populace, that is fiercely loyal to a number of unrelated causes and unwilling to affiliate with any camp, party or group, is going to look for candidates that have opinions, who think things and are not too chicken to voice them.

The State of Education, Part 1

The Story Problem

It's October, lovely October, as the year has turned fully over into its afternoon, vacationers have come home, and children have hit the books again in earnest.

Only now it's November.

Oh well. I was busy doing stuff. Some of the stuff I do uses math.

Everyone uses math from time to time, whether hunting for an elusive sock (1 sock does not pair up well with two feet), or multiplying a recipe by 3 2/3 because that's exactly how much stewed pumpkin they have to use up, or figuring the correct bend in a conduit run, or engineering a municipal water supply.

Mrs. Daniels was doing some math, at least according to my sister's 3rd grade math supplement, which we picked up at the local teachers supply. Mrs. Daniels ordered 63 tables and 7 chairs for a banquet. Each table will have the same amount of chairs. How many chairs will be at each table?

I sincerely hope Mrs. Daniels is purely fictional. Even so, I wish her luck, cutting up those chairs, and seating any guests at her sorry banquet.

Oh, the joys of moronic story problems! I can see my brother now, doing, probably 4th grade work.

"I bet the answer to this problem's wrong!"

Mr. Garcia is going to tile an area which is 6ft. by 4ft. with square tiles which are five inches across. How many tiles will he use?

My brother, having recently observed the tiling of our entry hall, dutifully worked out the tiles he would need. Knowing my brother, he probably also laid out in his mind all the necessary cuts. It took him awhile. When his math sheet was finished, and corrected, sure enough, there was a discrepancy in this answer.

"Aargh! I knew it!", he fumed. "They didn't figure the grout lines!"

Always scrupulous to a tee, he never did learn to assume that an educator, writing a curriculum with children in mind, thinks little about grout lines. But today, he is sent to every tile job acquired by the general contractor he works for.

And, they usually take him awhile. But they all stand up to scrutiny.

Speaking of moronic story problems, a young friend of mine was adopted out of foster care a couple years ago. Her home life, previous to foster care, was troubled to say the least. She is a sweet, sensitive little girl, and becomes easily disturbed by "dark" content in books and movies, so her new parents try to shield her from some stories other children would find exciting.

She is behind in her reading skills, and in order to help her come up to speed, the public school she was enrolled in gave her a supplemental reading text that was not only out of reach for her abilities, but consisted overwhelmingly of dismal stories of an abused earth.

Is it possible some fifth-graders have enough of their own problems, so as not to be burdened with the effects of nuclear-contamination on the nation's water supply, or the effects of industrial toxic waste on the nation's turtle population?

In my online hunt for the offending curriculum, I turned up this provocative story about what some people do with problematic stories- apparently it's called "self-censorship". I didn't know it was a sin! And, no. I do not think all school-age children need to be exposed to all stories. If a particular troubling concept really needs illumination in such a young life, someone in a trustworthy personal relationship with the child should find such text in the adult section, and share it carefully with the child.

If a large percentage of American high school students are not prepared for college academics, why should they be forced to cope with relational and emotional topics that many adults still can't handle very well?

Now I'm Worried

I thought the old carol went like this:
He is born the divine Christ child.
Beat the drums and sound the trumpets.

But one luxurious evening around the shiny Yamaha grand with my family's robust, tuneful, parts-singing and I cannot think of it that way anymore. Now it must be
He is born the divine Christ child.
Play the oboe and bagpipes merrily.

and it will not sing any other way.

That bugs me. Now I have some plaguing questions. Which version was first? Who changed it? Why? Did the Roman Catholic Church (I presume they had something to do with popularizing Christmas) have something against oboes and bagpipes? What instruments were popular when the carol was written? What are the histories of oboes and bagpipes? What percentage of our neighborhood (should we do a neighborhood carol sing) will be offended if we crack jokes about the bagpipes? And what's with America's obsession with men wearing kilts?

All this came of two extra syllables.

Note: I did mean to put this up end of September or very early October, :( at which time I would cop out of my obligation to post election information by recommending a vote for any candidate wearing a kilt. I did text this advice to my bro, who begged out of a vote for Gavin Newsom and judged me decisively to have gone off my rocker. This has been the beginning of a healthy relationship with my brother, based on new-found mutual respect.