Friday, October 30, 2020
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3 paragraphs worth reading

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...are from Time to leave 9/11 behind by E.J. Dionne in today's Washington Post.  Before I get to them, let me note the final sentence of his 1st paragraph. After telling us that many of the lessons we learned from that tragic day 10 years ago were wrong, he writes "The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself."

I was very much struck by his final three paragraphs, which I will quote without interruption before I offer my thoughts below the fold.

In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term "the lost decade" has been invoked. We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home - on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.

This is not "isolationism." It is a common sense that was pushed aside by the talk of "glory" and "honor," by utopian schemes to transform the world by abruptly reordering the Middle East - and by our fears. While we worried that we would be destroyed by terrorists, we ignored the larger danger of weakening ourselves by forgetting what made us great.

We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back. This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. "We can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground," he said. "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to "a new birth of freedom." This is still our calling.

A Sunday reflection upon words

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the words on which I reflect this morning were spoken more than 40 years ago by a prophet.

A prophet.  I use that word as it applies in the Hebrew Bible.  The person may warn us of the future, but that is not his primary task.  Rather it is to call us to moral account, to challenge the conventional ways of thinking, to confront those with power and authority about the harm they do to the people and the nation.

Normally I reflect on these words around the anniversary of their being spoken, on an early Spring day.  

But as I look around our nation I find that I must keep them before me constantly, partly as a reminder of why I still teach, and why I remain active in trying to make a difference beyond my classroom.

We are still engaged in war.  Our economic inequity increases.  The levels of hatred and vitriol in our political discourse are as bad as they have been in my lifetime, and I am 64.

I was reminded of these words in reading a book about teaching.  That is appropriate.

I share them on a political website.  That is even more appropriate.  Consider this:

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."  

A Saturday morning pause

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in the transition to the school year.  Students will arrive on Monday.  I now have 192 on my roles for 6 classes, that number being held down because one is a special program with only 21.  The numbers in order read 21-30-37-38-38-28.  I have 39 desks, and it is possible all will be filled in some classes.

The biggest story in education is the LA Times on value-added scores of LA school teachers, the paper publishing names & picture of teachers with the scores  I have been asked by several people to write on the subject here, but since I am not myself a psychometrician and there are real technical issues, I have been attempting to leave it to other people.  And there is a wealth of commentary on the subject in the last few days, too much for me to have absorbed.  

Perhaps I will write about that issue, or other issues that concern me.  I am never unconcerned about matters affecting schools, teachers and most of all students.  But this morning my reflection is also on broader issues.  

So I invite you to continue reading as I offer my morning mental meanderings in the brief period before I again become fully immersed in school and students.

A Friday the 13th reflection

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I am a triskaidekaphile, not a triskaidekaphobe.  

              FRIDAY
               THE
              13TH

I don't walk under ladders, but I have had one completely black cat (his name was Pele after the brilliant Brazilian soccer player) and have one now with just the smallest splash of white on this throat (which is why his name is Cielito, for little star on the background of black night).

When I had a choice, my number in athletics was always 13.  Yes, I know that is what Ralph Branca wore when he gave up the home run to Bobby Thompson in 1951  ("The Giants win the pennant!  The Giants win the pennant!), but it is also what Wilt Chamberlain wore on March 2, 1962, in Hershey Penna, where he scored 100 points against the New York Knicks.

13 is a prime number.  That always appealed to me.

As a Jewish lad I became Bar Mitzvah on my 13th birthday, on May 23, 1959, which happened to fall on a Saturday.

And because I like, or love - and do not fear - 13 even when it is the date of a Friday, I chose to offer a reflection.  Perhaps it is silly, Perhaps it is pointless.  But it is Friday, the date is 13, and that pleases me.

Trinity

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a place between the towns of Carrizozo and Socorro, New Mexico, in the Jornada del Muerto in the southwestern United States (33.6773°N 106.4754°W)

a name derived in part from the poetry of John Donne, for example "Batter my heart, three person'd God"

a 100-foot high steel tower

the time, after delays because of weather, 5:29:45 AM Mountain War Time

the force equal to an explosion of approximately 20,000 tons of TNT

the crater in the desert of radioactive glass 3 meters deep and 330 meters wide

nuke

Violence

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from Dictionary.reference.com:  

1.  swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
2.  rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
3.  an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
4.  a violent act or proceeding.
5.  rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.
6.  damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration: to do editorial violence to a text.

I have been thinking about this word for several days.  So today let me non-violently meditate upon its meanings as I perceive them.