Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Math and The Real World

Math has never really been one of my strongest subjects. I can eventually figure out the answers, but I usually take the scenic route to get there. This became particularly clear when I was introduced to Algebra in the 8th grade. Algebra introduced me to a whole new concept of figuring out unknowns. As I did my homework, I would frequently ask my parents why the heck we had to figure out what "X" was, and how is this relevant to my life in the real world anyway? I would certainly not be pursuing a career in math.
As I was reading through a math test my son brought home, I recognized that irrelevance to the real world begins much earlier in math education than I would have expected. Take the following question:

"I found 14 shells on the beach. I went home and put them in my magic pot and they were doubled. How many shells do I have now?"

Who the heck has a magic pot that doubles things? And if you had a magic pot that doubled things, would you really be doubling sea shells? No! Money is what you would double! Money and cookies... to start with. 
Our education system is clearly failing our children.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sin Vs. Mistake

"Even though they have taught their children all of the commandments and principles they need for righteous and provident living, parents are still susceptible to the serious error of failing to distinguish between mistakes and sins. If well-meaning parents call teenagers to repentance for teenagers' numerous mistakes, they may dilute the effect of chastisement and reduce the impact of repentance for the category of teenage sins that really require it...
"Sins result from willful disobedience of laws we have received by explicit teaching or by the Spirit of Christ, which teaches every man the general principles of right and wrong. For sins, the remedy is to chasten and encourage repentance.
"Mistakes result from ignorance of the laws of God or the workings of the universe or people he has created. For mistakes, the remedy is to correct the mistake, not to condemn the individual."

-Dallin H. Oaks, "Life's Lessons Learned"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Serious 2 Year Old Attitude

The 2 year old attitude came to our house a few months early. I'm hoping that means it leaves a few months early. I can find solace in the fact that a.) it hasn't been extreme (yet), and b.) I am well aware that the two year old attitude is a "phase"... a child coming to terms with and claiming their independence. The days of Wrestling-My-Squealing-Daughter-To-Get-Her-Strapped-Into-A-Car-Seat-In-A-Public-Parking-Lot-Almost-Every-Time-We-Go-Somewhere are numbered. This too shall pass. For every time there is a season, etc., etc. etc.
The only fear lurking in the back of my mind stems from the fact that, at this point, I'm still learning every day through trial and error what makes her tick... and she likes to mix things up. I don't know who she is, or who she's becoming. What if this isn't really a phase? What if it's her personality? Hold onto your hats, folks. This could be a bumpy ride!
Adjusting to a new person in your home is something really interesting.

When he first came to this house he'd just sit around all day
And he would never get a job he'd just run around naked and play
And he was always stinky and he would very often cry
He was always making messes and to clean them up he never would try

And now that he is two years old he thinks he's some kind of king
He goes where he wants he does what he wants and gets into everything
He's acting rambunctious, rambunctious and kind of rude
He's got a serious, serious, serious, serious 2 year old attitude

He's got a serious, serious, serious, serious 2 year old attitude
You better give that boy, you better give him some latitude
'Cause he can kick and scream and fight
and he just learned how to bite
He's got a serious, serious, serious, serious 2 year old attitude

Well he's always stealing stuff when you take him to the store
He's either breaking it, trying to eat it, or throwing it on the floor
And he won't eat his vegetables he won't eat his applesauce
'Cause he's a bad to the bone know it all a rebel without a cause

And now that he is two years old he thinks he's some kind of king
He goes where he wants he does what he wants and gets into everything
Cause he'll wait until you get into a church or a store or another public place
And the he'll pout and he'll shout and he'll rant and he'll rave
And he'll cry and he'll scream until he's red in the face

-Ryan Shupe

Monday, September 10, 2012

Call Me Akela

My son just recently became a Cub Scout! This is a day that he has looked forward to with great anticipation and excitement- a super cool uniform, pinewood derbies, and exclusive scout activities being at the top of his list. I was equally excited for this day because I was anxious for him to become a member of the inspired program, and because I also couldn't wait for him to be involved in the weekly activities and character growth that scouting offers. 
As familiar as I am with scouting (my brothers and husband are all Eagles), I'm pretty sure I had no idea how my life would be changing. My dreams of pinewood derbies and leather belts with "Mom" printed on them, have quickly been tempered by reality. A process that has come in two stages.
The first stage was the day my son received his Handbook. As I casually thumbed through the pages, it began to dawn on me that my job was going to entail much more than dropping my son off at weekly activities and clapping at award ceremonies... specifically when I read, "Almost all electives and achievements are done by you and your Cub Scout at home, not in the den meeting." It is then I realized that the pins the mom's receive at awards ceremonies are not merely sentimental gestures acknowledging a mother's support. I will be as involved in my son's scouting as he is. I will earn every one of those pins, because I will have nagged and prodded my son to complete the requirements to earn his awards. I am entering a whole new stage of Motherhood! A milestone I had not anticipated or prepared for.
The second stage came the night of my son's first meeting. After the meeting ended, my son joined the rest of the pack in storming the refreshment table. They raided its contents like a swarm of locusts, then ran into the back of the gym where they proceeded to rough house and wildly run around as parents mingled. This, of course, was expected. My eyes were opened though, when it came time to leave. As I walked through the partition to where the boys were playing to collect my son, I entered just in time to see my son with his arms around a friend forcefully flinging him to the ground. He then landed on top of him and triumphantly announced to his friend that he had pinned him. I was taken aback. This was something I had never seen my son do before. And then in an instant, every encounter I had ever had with scouts as a youth and adult flashed before my eyes- the running, the wrestling, the yelling, the heckling, the wedgies, the sweaty boy smell. And in that magical moment, I saw my son in a new light. I realized that the natural order of things was taking place, and as if a wand had been waved that night my son had entered a whole new stage of boyhood. My son had become a scout.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

A few years ago, I read A Tale of Two Cities. Honestly, I had no idea what it was about before I picked it up. I only knew that it was one of my college roommate's favorite books. I was delighted to discover that it is about the French Revolution- a topic of fascination for me thanks to my high school World History class... and Les Miserables. 
I found the book's Introduction by Gillen D'Arcy Wood (Barnes and Noble edition, 2004) equally as fascinating. He pinpoints a few interesting observations made by Dickens about France's culture that contributed to the revolution. A theme that Dickens explores is mob mentality, which intrigues me- the whole concept of people not thinking as individuals but rather as a group. (I have included selections from the introduction below, more for my own reference than anything else).
I wonder if the passages about spectacle and paranoia could be relevant to our society? We may not attend executions or gaze at morgue windows, etc. but then again, the violent content shown on TV and in movies can be pretty close. Those outlets may justify their content by being "not real", but it still creates a fascination with the theme by audiences (ex.: the "Batman" gunner). And could our age of Twitter and Facebook lead to an expectation of "total visibility"? I am not suggesting that we are close to a revolution, just considering our culture and how it might compare to those in the past.

"A Tale of Two Cities... is only in part a 'historical' novel. On Dickens' mind was not so much the state of France in 1789, as the current state of England, and his fear of public riots and mob violence in the streets of London."

"In his novel of the Revolution, Dickens expresses pity, even outrage for the downtrodden individuals under the yoke of France's ancien regime and abhors that regime itself; but once its oppressed citizens transform themselves into a mob, he is filled with the same disgust and horror he experienced at the hanging at Horsemonger Lane [where he had attended a public execution in London to watch the behavior of the crowd]."

"...When Dickens expressed to A.H. Layard his fear of revolution in Britain in 1855, he only echoed many dozens of commentators over the preceding six decades, who wondered why mob violence could not simply cross the English Channel and turn the streets of London into a bloodbath of class retribution. The textbook historian's answer points to the bloodless coup of 1688, the so-called Glorious Revolution, which saw the tyrant James II forced into exile, and William and Mary inaugurate a form of managerial rule in Britain, a constitutional, 'mixed' monarchy where many absolute powers of the Crown were ceded to Parliament....
"But as a novelist, Dickens, who loved Paris and traveled there often, offers more intuitive, closely observed reasons for the untranslatable quality of that city's Revolution. In an 1856 article for his weekly magazine, Household Words, he calls Paris 'the Moon,' and describes a culture of spectacle implicitly alien to his London readers. On the grand Parisian boulevards, Dickens watches the upper classes put on a 'mighty show.' Later, he takes coffee and a cigar at one of Paris' ubiquitous cafes, and participates in a kind of collective voyeurism unfamiliar to the English capital:

The place from which the shop front has been taken makes a gay proscenium; as I sit and smoke, the street becomes a stage, with an endless procession of lively actors crossing and re-crossing. Women with children, carts and coaches, men on horseback, soldiers, water-carriers with their pails, family groups (coming past, flushed, a little late for the play) ... We are all amused, sitting seeing the traffic in the street, and the traffic in the street is in its turn amused by seeing us (Railway Dreaming," pp. 373-374).

"Paris is a society of spectacle, a glamorous outdoor 'stage' where citizens are both actors and audience. Later, in the article, however, Dickens describes a more sinister aspect of this culture of display when he is jostled by the crowds at the Paris morgue, whose 'bodies lie on inclined planes within a great glass window, as though Holbein should represent Death, in his grim Dance, keeping a shop, and displaying his goods like a Regent Street or boulevard linen-draper' (p. 375). Dickens is unnerved here, as he was at Horsemonger Lane, by a society that places no restraints on visibility, even to preserve the solemnity of the dead.
"It is a short step in Dickens' imagination from the peep-show atmosphere of the Paris morgue in 1856 to the ritual slaughter in the Place de la Revolution during Robespierre's 'Reign of Terror' of 1793-1794. A Tale of Two Cities shows the dark side of urban theatricality, that a public appetite for glamorous 'show' can rapidly degenerate into an insatiable hunger for 'scenes of horror and demoralization.' The essentially theatrical quality of Parisian social life produces a theatrical Revolution."

"...The dangers of a society of spectacle are summed up in [Dickens'] response: Whether it is the court of Louis XVI or Robespierre's revolutionary committee, no government that asserts its power in the form of public exhibition can guarantee control of its audience's reaction. The irrational fervor inspired by spectacles may distract the people from ideology... but spectacle may just as easily produce the murderous revolutionary..."
..."But the society of spectacle has a second, more sinister aspect from which England is not immune: paranoia. Dickens in Paris watching the passing crowds, who in turn watch him, might pass for a harmless afternoon's entertainment in the city, but when the opportunity for seeing and being seen is hardened to an expectation, or even a right to total visibility, it is a short distance to paranoia and a culture obsessed with secrets. When there is no escape from the social gaze, voyeurs quickly turn into spies and informants, and the least assertion of individuality or privacy is interpreted as a guilty secret that needs to be exposed." 

"Dickens drew much historical detail for the Paris sections of the novel from Louis-Sebastien Mericer's twelve-volume Le Tableau de Paris (1781-1788). In an essay entitled 'Spies,' Mercier describes how, in the 1780's 'the Parisian... was surrounded... by spies... it was the universal means of gathering secrets for the efficient use of the ministers.' Historians' estimates for the numbers of government agents in Paris alone range up to three thousand."

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3

"You are conservative in your judgement and your methods of execution. You have mechanical ability and are methodical, patient, observant, and versatile. You do not make friends or attachments hastily and will probably not marry young. Your love will be strong and lasting."

- Fortune-Telling Birthday Book