Saturday, March 03, 2007

ode to Wendell Berry

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


if there's a clutter I can stand
it is books, everywhere

Thursday, September 07, 2006

the revolution of one

This blog is about skeptisicm, a distrust of ideas and change. But it is also radical, anachronistic, and a bit luddite, for to be skeptical of change is not merely to accept things as they are now--that would be the case only if one knew nothing about the past--but to view with distrust the way things are now, over and against how things once were. If you want to change things, change yourself, and maybe change your locality. Let's not be so arrogant as to try to change the world.

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon shot!
A beggar on horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.

Friday, September 01, 2006

let's make everyone above average

I received a political advertisement this week from someone running for school board (bored?). The woman so advertised was claiming that she "cared" about every student, and was interested in seeing every last one succeed. I assume that my astute readers have already noted that school board members are interested in budgets, policies, and "approved" cirricula, not students. Yet every student is "cared for" by their policies and approvals. Just as a public place is "owned" by everyone and therefore cared for by no one, one who "cares" for everyone will in fact care for no one at all.
This reminds me of a story of a parent arguing with a school board member, or someone similar. The educationist claimed to love every child just as a parent would, and consequently so to care after them. The parent objected, naturally. The educational autocrat said, "Of course, I love your children just as much as you do." The parent replied, "Really!? What are their names?"

Friday, June 23, 2006

grades for dollar$

I have decided, in the end, that I ought to sell keys to my exams. Maybe for $20 per person. It would be a good way to make money. See, I am a "teacher". This means that I stand in front of people every day, people who may or may not be learning anything. Unfortunately, I have rather little to do with whether or not anyone learns anything; learning depends largely (but not solely) on whether or not one goes home and studies. Which brings me to why I should sell the key to my every examination.

It won't change anything--except the amount of money in my pocket, of course. Anyone who wants to learn will learn; anyone who doesn't, won't. And in either (by which I mean, every) case, it doesn't matter whether they have the key or not. Ultimately, it comes down to determination--one thing over which I have essentially no control. I provide opportunities--that is all. What students decide to do with opportunies--that is everything. Four years, fifty thousands dollars, and all you get is opportunies. But that's the only way it can ever be.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Public Health Ads are Propaganda Ads

Has anyone seen the new TV commercial that ends by displaying the slogan "Buzzed driving is drunk driving"? I guess it's not really an advertisement--a PSA, perhaps, although the "service" part is dubious at best. Propaganda it is, however. Anyone who is not sheltered in some way from experience with non-abstainers will know the difference between being buzzed and being drunk. Sure, they are vague terms, but that doesn't make them interchangeable. The message conveyed by this conflation of terms is the conflation of mostly responsible use ("buzzed" driving) with mostly irresponsible use ("drunk" driving). As if the alcohol problems in this country arose out of making too many subtle distinctions!

Broadcast-balderdash aside, this is just one more way that we all are punished for the foolishness of some. Because some people get behind the wheel with .25 BAC and kill a family of four (see the headlines), the rest of us are threatened with jail if we drive with a .08. Because many otherwise reasonable people choose to ignore this silly law, we (and more importantly our children) are subjected to absurd PSAs that encourage us to sort drinkers into two categories: totally sober and totally wasted. No sense making fine distinctions. Listen up, kids. Here's what you need to know about alcohol: state law tells you whether or not you are responsible. Not your parents, your friends, or even your own experience can tell you at what age you can taste a beer, when you've had too much, or when you should get behind the wheel of a car. Responsibility is so last century--now we have laws.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

you can't always tell the designer labels from the faux

It occured to me today that the proponents of intelligent design (generally "conservatives", whatever that means) are also largely propents of the free market. So while "randomness" (i.e., absence of design) is insufficent to create a physical world, it is sufficient--indeed, is superior--as a way to create an economic system. (Maybe "create" isn't the right word here.) There is no contradiction here--just a curiousity. I'm surprised that no one else has picked up on it.

Perhaps there is more to randomness than we think. The brain, the mighty seat of human intelligence, seems to operate on certain physical processes that are in some sense random. Now I don't know much more about what it means to be random than I do what it means to be intelligent; both are mysterious phenomena. But if we stipulate that (a.) our brains are what make us intelligent, and (b.) our brains depend in part on "random" physical processes, perhaps we can conclude that randomness and intelligence are not ultimately incommensurable. Funny that we should spend so much energy in fierce debate over ideas so poorly understood. Why, after all, can't evolution be intelligent?