Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ramblings for the Evening (1/17/07)

I'm not very happy. After a whole song and dance where I went through and removed all this material in order to please his bosses, a certain newsman returns to television. I'm angry and feel that I have been lied to at the same time.
So, without further ado: NOW THAT...IS...IIIIRONY!
Religious Issues:
Well here is a doozy of a story shared with me.
It seems that an English teacher at my school is currently teaching The Odyssey. Yes, the Greek classic is still haunting students in schools across the country. Why? Because mythology is an essential part of understanding literature, and because stories about epic heroes still resonate today.
So here's the issue. The English teacher (who we'll call Fry to protect the innocent) recently had a student say the following:
"I cannot read The Odyssey as it is a religious text, and that is against my religion."
Now Fry was apparently quite suspicious of this, so he challenged the student on this.
The parent of the student became involved. It seems that the family's religion prohibits them from reading anything that is religious...including any religion that may have been practiced in previous cultures.
Another way of saying this: If the story mentions any kind of religious idea that MAY have been practiced, then the family cannot read it as it may affect their faith.
Fry had NEVER heard of this before (neither had I for that matter). The Odyssey is technically full of religious material as the story (though read by Fry's department as history) finds the Gods affecting everyone's decisions.
So here's the other problem Fry has. There are no back-up books for The Odyssey as Fry sees it. If the student is supposed to learn about mythology, then almost all readings will have a religious aspect to them (mythology is based in myth which has forms of supernatural, more often than not, which can be considered religious).
I have no idea how to solve Fry's problem. None of the other members of the department can solve the problem either.
My issue stems from Fry's third problem. When the parent was asked if the student could read stories from the family's religious beliefs, the parent balked.
"You are not of our faith, so you cannot teach it correctly."
When asked what could be done, the parent balked again.
"I know what my child cannot read. YOU must find what she can read without affecting her faith."
This is an unwinnable situation for Fry. If Fry lets the child off, then an important part of the curriculum is missed and the student's education is marred. If, however, Fry forces the student to read the text, then major reprecussions could happen.
My gut tells me that the problem is not that the book is full of religious imagery, but that the student understands the text, but the parent does not.
The bottom line, however, is this story saddens me. If a teacher cannot challenge a student's beliefs, if a teacher cannot make a student think about ideas that he or she may never have really given consderation to, if a teacher cannot show a student cultures outside their own, then how is the student going to be able to learn? Part of the point of education is to help students learn by making them create new theories and ideas instead of blindly following what has been instiled in them by media, religion, or even their parents. To Fry's story saddens me as I now worry about my own classroom.
"Sorry, Leab. I can't read Heart of Darkness because it deals with Africa, and my family feels that's a place we don't talk about out loud."
Or maybe,
"I can't read Romeo and Juliet as teenage romance will only lead to problems for my overall psyche."
Go beyond English. Can History teachers no longer talk about The Crusades? World War II?(There was a part of the war that dealt with the Holocaust...which is kind of religious...isn't it?)
I know...I'm ranting while rambling, but I worry about the future of our curriculums as teachers when we can no longer challenge the students' perspectives.
Midnight at the Oasis:
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says that we are now at five minutes to midnight, with midnight being when the world will end due to nuclear war fallout. I find this fascinating. Scary, but fascinating. Many people believed that the world would end seven years ago (nerds felt it would be six, but whatever). The world didn't end, but now many people are saying that we, in fact, started the end run of the world. If seven years is the timetable, as some argue, the world will end sometime this year. I don't think it's going to happen, but I do worry about the way the world is going. Not for me. I could care less about myself. If the world ends, then the cockroaches and I will be playing cribbage. No, I worry for my son's sake. I worry about the world he will grow up in where more and more people live in a virtual reality than in reality itself.
I'm not worried about nuclear war. I'm more worried about the fact that the younger generations cannot talk to each other unless they are using a keyboard or a phone. Face to face conversation is dying.
Example? Two students, sitting next to each other, could not find the proper words to talk to each other as they faced each other. However, when one of the students left the room, the other student's phone starts making noise as the text messages roll in from...student #1. The words flowed as the two were in separate rooms. THAT makes me nervous. If we can no longer communicate face to face, then the very evolutionary trait that makes us the higher mammals (the ability to form words with reasoning) passes away. Can't wait to see those candidates debate. It'll be quiet except for all the beeping on the phones.
and finally
Turn, Turn, Turn:
This will sound bad, but it has to be said.
I really do like
MN Speak. It started as a way to find interesting blogs as well as learn about what was going on around the Twin Cities. It was also the first real step in new media where ideas could be freely shared.
As most sites/ideas often will, it has evolved. However, in this case, it has become a place where it feels as though free ideas are no longer really welcome.
What do I mean?
* Unless you're part of the clique, your posts or thoughts are ignored for the most part (that's a Minnesota thing, so I don't truly begrudge).
* Topics lately have been either overly political or down right odd. (Helium? Really?)
* Comments don't really add anything. It becomes a stupid, high school argument where people take sides and instead of creating constructive arguments, the comments become childish.
*The posters who often tried to create an open opinion environment have moved on to greener pastures.
Again, it probably sounds like I'm whining. I'm not. I'm just sad to see something that I really quite like change to a point where you don't know it anymore. It's like a restaurant that you really like changing its menu to something completely different. You'll try, but after a really start to miss the old food.
So I'll end with this: If you haven't been watching it, click on the link for Chasing Windmills. Brilliant production.
Upcoming posts here will include more about my son's birth (which I'm behind on talking about), Christmas at the Grand Hotel...with the Chicago Bulls, and more.
Then again what do I know? I'm just some blogging schmuck. I could be wrong.


Arthur Willoughby said...

I saw a bumper sticker today that simply read "Namaste."

Regarding the Odyssey, that's just confounding. I had a pastor once who encouraged his children to read anything and everything; even things that directly contradicted their beliefs. He believed that their faith was strong enough to endure challenge. It's just scary to shelter yourself from knowledge for such an intangible, arbitrary reason.

Regarding the Doomsday Clock, I'm disappointed that they're now including other factors like Global Warming. I don't worry about nuclear war; I believe it's inevitable, but I believe the creatures that should survive will.

Interpret that any way you want.

Glad to have you back.

Jason said...

For the record: I am not that newsman.

Regarding MNSpeak, I agree for the most part. I miss the old regulars (although Alexis reappeared last night!). I miss the fun, interesting arguments. But I hang around, because I haven't found anything better.

Nice to see you back again.

American Lung Association of Minnesota said...

Maybe we veteran MNspeakers have to take the initiative and post better stuff.

Jason's recent story on the two mothers would have made a good MNSpeak post, for example. Let's resolve to take our game up a notch. MNspeak belongs to all of us (sorry, Matt), not just the Cartel.

If we want it to be better, let's make it so, and ignore the trolls and small fry wannabes.

Anonymous said...

your bit about losing face to face conversation abilities, so true!! just earlier today i was talking about it with a friend of mine. to many people are scared to just say what they want right to someone's face. everyone says it on-line or in a text, devoid of emotion!! anywho, just wanted to let you know how much i agreed.

p.s. i'm bummed i missed you, we should get caught up.