My grandsons, ages 15 and 12, were in town last week, and we tried to do two interesting things a day while they were here.
On Friday afternoon, we drove into Austin to the Harry Ransom Center to see the World War I exhibit.
I picked that particular activity because they are boys, and boys are generally more interested in war than girls are, because I figured it wouldn't hurt them to learn some history and because I figured it would be a great way to spend two or three hours.
In my head, I imagined all kinds of neat things that a museum could do to make a war that happened 100 years ago interesting. Like weapons. Like video. Like mind-numbing big black-and-white images. Like great maps, even interactive maps. Accessible audio. Things to touch. Things to hold. Things to process in some way besides through the written word.
When we drove away from the museum about an hour after entering the exhibit, I asked the boys what they had learned about World War I.
In unison: "Nothing."
The things I imagined, it seems no one else imagined at the Ransom Center.
Even I got bored with it.
I could go on and on about it. But I won't.
I did just OK in math when I was a sophomore at Amarillo High School in 1962-63.
Then, everything changed.
Math became completely foreign. It was no longer a language I was familiar with. It was like going into a world where people on Friday spoke English and then on Monday they spoke Japanese.
This would not have been a particularly big problem, except that you had to pass some math to get out of high school and you had to pass two years of math to get out of college, and the latter was a big, big deal because if you didn't keep your IIS deferment by staying in college you got drafted into the Army, and this was not a great time to be in the Army.
How I made it through is another story.
But, here's the thing: I always thought my failures at math after my sophomore year were MY fault. I just didn't measure up. I didn't have the right stuff. If math had been football I would have been playing checkers.
Now, it turns out that I was totally wrong. It wasn't me. It was my math teachers!
Elizabeth Green, writing in the Sunday New York Times magazine, makes a strong case that every time something changes in the world of math instruction, the teachers don't understand what to do. They get no instruction themselves. And the texts don't help, either.
Wow. What a revelation.
But, this is definitely NOT about me.
It's about the future of this nation and its economy and its government and its competitiveness.
Read the article. It seems to add up.
In a blistering essay in the book section of The New York Times on Sunday, David Lehman skins, guts and chops into itty bitty pieces the academic elites in this country.
His report is aimed at broadening a discussion about poetry, which is regularly declared dead and unlikely to be revived.
But, in the course of that purpose, he has some scathing words about intellectual life in these United States. In the midst of his extended and finely argued rant, though, comes a stunning reference to an article in The Wall Street Journal written by Heather Mac Donald that says that UCLA has eliminated its core English requirements that students read Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, requiring them instead to read "alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race and class."
In Lehman's mind, this coup "is but one event in a pattern that would replace a theory of education based on a 'constant, sophisticated dialogue between past and present' with a consumer mind-set based on narcissism and political self-interest."
The situation he describes throughout his essay is not just deplorable, but also scandalous.
Right-wing nuts don't have a corner on moral outrage. Just ask me.
Being a United States senator does not require one to be ethically and morally upright, as we all know.
But, gosh, you expect your Army colonel to be so.
Maybe not more run-of-the-mill officers (like those below-field-grade folks in the Air Force nuclear missile service who cheated on exams), but a COLONEL.
Here, though, we have one John Walsh, a colonel and a U.S. senator, who stands accused of plagiarizing a key paper leading up to his getting a master's degree from the Army War College in 2007.
The good senator from Montana has been found to have stolen a significant amount of this paper, including ALL the recommendations, which were swiped wholesale from four scholars' earlier published work.
The War College is "investigating" and the senator is dissimilating. Holy mackeral, he says, it was probably the result of PTSD he suffered by serving in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, where one assumes, he was NOT a lowly infantry grunt but a guy with a cushy, no doubt traumatizing, desk job.
It should not take the Army more than a couple of hours to figure this out. Everyone else has.
The senator is standing for election. Time to give him the dusty old boot.
Plagiarism is fraud, pure and simple.
On Wednesday, I blogged about the most-checked-out fictional works during the first half of 2014.
Today, the top non-fiction checkouts: No. 1 is "Trapped Under the Sea" by Neil Swidey. No. 2 is "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" by Robert Gates. No other books came close.
I don't know how those compare to the top sellers for the first six months, nationwide.
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