Saturday, June 30, 2007

Listen up, ladies...

...and read what Kitchen Madonna has to say about appreciating our husbands. She is spot on here. :)

Hide the Children...

Online Dating

I'd have thought a PG-13 rating, maybe, but apparently I use the word "sex" too much for that. The word "abortion" didn't factor in at all.

Somehow, though, my husband came out with a "G" rating. Interesting...

Update and Correction: Apparently "abortion" does figure into the rating. I ran my blog through the website one more time after posting the above, and it elevated my rating to "NC-17", this time counting only 1 instances of the word. I ran it a second time, and it counted 7 instances! Hmmm...

It must only count words on the main page of the blog, and not in the archives, because it recorded only 1 instance, and I know I have discussed the issue more often than that!

Friday, June 29, 2007

When living simply can be a good idea.

Consider the kitchen, for instance.

"They have a pill for that" and other rude remarks...

Grouchy old people on the bus are nothing new (in fact just being on the bus in the first place would make anyone grouchy, but this old lady takes the cake.

Let's be sensible, people. Once someone has had six children, especially if she lives in the US or any other developed western country, a few things should be clear to you:

1. She has had plenty of time to figure out what causes that.
2. If she owns a television or has a doctor, she has probably heard of birth control.
3. If she has had six kids she has probably chosen not to use it.
4. After six children it's a little late to be lecturing her. If you don't like large families, talk to people about it before they have them.
5. If you think someone is trying to "take over society" by outbreeding you, it is your civic duty to keep up. Otherwise, you have no right to complain.

Motherhood is not a disease that needs to be cured, and children are not a plague.

Related: A fun t-shirt for parents of large families.
Nod: Tito

Note: Somehow the link to the article about the lady in question was directing people to a page about Emily Dickinson. How this is possible, I do not know, as I have never seen that page, and I am sure that this post originally linked to the article. The error, in any case, has been corrected.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


It's worth understanding when something is an exercise in futility.

Asking certain people to tone down their rhetoric is likely to be about as effective as asking others to go easy on the hair spray.

Just my opinion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On the nature and purpose of public education

Warning: long post ahead!

I had reached my limit of blog posts for one day, but I supposes since I have been relatively silent for the past week or two, I can get away with an extra post here and there.

Today, Tito linked to an editorial on public education at the Catoosa County News, to which I believe I must respond. Usually, I am on the same page as the articles to which he links, but this one is (in part, anyway) an exception.

I've been a student and employee of both public and private schools. I've even had a glimpse of tutoring facilities run by corporate management. I have had a chance to see the education system from both sides of the teacher's desk, as it were. Each segment of the education field has its advantages and disadvantages, though many, including myself, would tend to say that the majority of the public disadvantages are with the public system. In fact, one thing that motivated me to become an educator myself was the opportunity to contribute to the solution of the many problems in education. I have spent what was possibly the most grueling and anxiety-ridden year of my entire life so far trying to enter this profession, and I spent my first two certificated years in it completing a master's thesis that is, in many ways, a product of my own lifelong frustrations with the educational system in which I have learned and taught.

Having had such experiences, I completely understand the frustrations of many others who find that the system seems to conspire against them and their ideals. I have had to live with these frustrations on a day to day basis, and on some occasions they have nearly driven me from the profession which I at first pursued with all the enthusiasm and tenacity in my being (and those who know me understand just how stubborn and determined I can be). However, before we throw out the baby with the bathwater, it might be useful to examine the sources of these problems more closely.

I include here, portions of the text of the post to which I am responding, with my comments inserted. The author of said article holds a bachelor's in Education, and another in History. Since my Master's is in Education, I suppose I have as much right as he to comment on the issue as he.

Now here’s an idea that’s time has come: close down public schools and let the private sector take care of educating the young. ... Like nearly everything else it touches, government can ruin what is otherwise good with gross inefficiencies and rampant corruption.

I agree that government has a knack for breaking what's already fixed, but closing public schools altogether is too drastic. would become like other industries: profit driven. And to generate profits you have to provide what people want: a quality product.

Have you seen the cold, impersonal interior of the profit-driven sector of education? I won't touch that again, if I can avoid it. An assembly line approach to teaching human beings reeks of utilitarianism--a child becomes a product, not a person in that atmosphere. When it comes to upholding the truth of human dignity, our culture is already struggling enough as it is.

Even private schools do not generally operate for profit, at least not the way large corporations do. Besides, not everything profit-driven turns out to be high quality. Some things are made to be broken so they'll sell more. Some corporate bodies prefer profits over people, and operate as cheaply as possible, even if it means putting clients at risk. Some companies just get lazy and put out a shoddy product because they know their name will sell it no matter what. By the way, have you tried using Windows Vista lately?

Remove government from the equation and failing schools would vanish as the unnatural life support Washington gives such schools would cease to exist.

The idea that the problem of failure will disappear if the failing schools close is a common conclusion of those who do not understand the fundamental reasons for school failure. One is the communities in which many of these failing schools are located. School staff often have to struggle against sub-cultures in which school success is a social taboo: where high grades will get you beat up, and low grades will preserve your respectability on the street, and even in your own family. Or, they are faced with high populations of students who have only recently entered the country, some of whom can't even read in their native tongue, and most of whom do not yet speak English well enough to understand most standardized tests.

Failing schools are also frequently staffed by the most inexperienced and worn out of our profession, who, despite their inclination to make a difference, quickly learn not to make waves among their colleagues by having expectations, or who have become so cynical and prejudiced that they have begun to believe that their students can achieve nothing. A failing school is not a place where a youthful, energetic , idealistic teacher can survive for long, however highly skilled. Teachers who have the freedom to be picky will often avoid beginning their careers in such places. Teachers who have experience prefer not to add to the existing frustrations they face by choosing a more difficult job. Closing a failing school will not eliminate these problems. It will merely transfer them somewhere else, when the population of a closed school disperses to the ones that remain open.

...If government did not control schools (i.e. schools would no longer be part of the state) then the separation of church and state argument would not apply. Suddenly there could be prayer, Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts and Bible classes in any school that wanted them.

I don't think we can trust corporate America here. So much of it has already become politically correct as it is (domestic partner benefits, generic "holiday" parties instead of Christmas, etc.). If you want to avoid political correctness, you'd better send your kids to a religious school. And those are already available to those who have the funds, and even to some who do not.

I’ve little doubt Thomas Jefferson would be appalled at how the meaning of his words (referring to the wall of separation between church and state) have been twisted to promote not freedom of religion but freedom from religion. After all, nobody truly believes the Pledge of Allegiance is a threat. Nobody honestly thinks that everybody, everywhere, and at all times will get his or her way. No one seriously believes true persecution occurs if someone feels what liberals love to call “offended,” “excluded” or “targeted.”

Citing Thomas Jefferson in an argument against public education may not be so wise, as he was actually a proponent of it. He probably would be appalled at the way political correctness has strangled public discourse in this country. However, I don't think he would wish to abolish public education altogether. In his "Goals for public education, Printed for the consideration of the People" Jefferson proposed that education is a necessary part of a successful democracy: that an informed, thinking citizenry is most likely to make informed, thoughtful decisions when voting and otherwise participating in government. It is therefore in the interest of society to see to it that the population is educated. (Click here to read more about that)

Now, I agree that the public education system as we know it, and particularly as we have known it for the past 20 years or so has in general done little to ennoble my generation or the ones immediately following. If anything, the emphasis of self-esteem over respect, self-improvement and healthy competition (cited in the Catoosa County News Column) has had exactly the opposite effect. People my age and younger are have the greatest sense of entitlement I have ever seen.

Be that as it may, I think it is irresponsible to completely abandon an institution that has the potential to do a great deal of good. It would be a good idea to force the public system to compete more against the private one. I think that this can be accomplished with four strategies applied simultaneously.

1. Eliminate compulsory education after grade six. Students already have the option of dropping out after their sophomore year of high school. What we need is to allow society to re-discover that education is valuable, and it can only do that if it goes without it for a little while. People more often take education for granted if they do not feel the cost of getting it, and the cost of going without it. In a few more years, people who wish they had gone to junior high and high school will start doing whatever it takes to make sure their children go.

2. Charge educational taxes directly to the taxpayer, instead of having the taxpayer's employer deduct it from the paycheck. As any private school teacher can tell you, parents pay more attention to what schools do when they can feel their money parting from them.

2. Fully refund educational tax dollars to parents whose children are not making use of the public school system either because of homeschooling, private school enrollment, or dropping out. Then, create a voucher system for the public schools, so that parents can choose to send their kids anywhere. I do not advocate vouchers that apply to private institutions, as putting public money in private schools only allows hostile politicians to get their grubby, politically correct fingers where they do not belong. But if the public schools actually did lose business to the competition, and even to each other, it might serve to change the atmosphere a bit. We all know that nothing annoys the department of education more than not getting the tax money to which it thinks it is entitled.

4. Return more control of schools to the local level. Let individual districts (or even individual schools) decide how they want to handle issues like prayer and religious holidays. I know of some that would probably accept these, if they were able. And with school choice in the mix, through a voucher system, parents who don't like school prayer can opt for a school that does not have it.

None of these solutions will completely resolve the issue of liberal indoctrination, but it will give parents the freedom to let people know where such behavior will be bad for business, while preserving the availability of education to those who want it. As a bonus, this may be possible without bringing corporate America any more into the picture than it must be.

As much anger and distrust as many (often rightfully) have for the public school system, chloroforming it will not solve the underlying problems behind school failure. The faults of our school system are a product of the long fall of our culture: the weakening of family, the destruction of the notion that standing on principles can be noble, the domination of the "right not to be offended" over the right to free speech, and the tearing down of much of our lingering respect for authority, even that which we impose upon ourselves through the democratic process. Until man is no longer fallen, his educational systems, no matter how ingeniously constructed, will remain fallen as well..

If you like plants...

You might want to keep an eye on Transplanted, my gardening blog, as I update it with pictures of some inspiring locations and plants I recently encountered on a trip back to California.

For your inner vocabulary nerd:

jejune: lacking in nutritional value; also, immature; also, dull.

Soo many possible applications for this word...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Important news for fiscal hostages of the NEA

I have posted before about what I think of how the NEA and its various tentacles and minions operate.

The original point of unions was for workers to be protected against abuse and exploitation from their employers. It's a sad day when we satart needing protection from our unions. In California, a ballot measure which could have protected union members from having their pockets picked for political gain was defeated by voters, much to the disappointment of those of us who wanted our dues to be kept out of NEA lobbying in favor of things like abortion.

NEA lobbied heavily abainst this legislation, arguing that it would deprive them of much needed funds (which they assumed they had a righ to) the fact of the matter is this: if the members of NEA and its state affiliates, such as the CTA were as universal in their political opinions as they would have voters believe, they would have nothing to fear from a ballot measure which would rewquire them to seek permission from members to use their dues for political purposes. As it is, California teachers must approach their union reps and request in writing that their dues be diverted to another purpose, opening them up to retaliation in the workplace.

While it's a sad state of affairs when workers won't even protect themselves, their kids, or their kids' teachers through the democratic process, it's an even sadder one when the situation is so dire that a lone brave teacher needs to bring the courts in to protect her right to her conscience.

In Ohio, however, a teacher has done just that won an important victory for those of us who disagree with the political stances of the teacher's unions, and who have always wished to withhold our dues money, especially those of us from whose paychecks said dues are deducted automatically, with our without our approval.


Nod: Tito

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Renewing Marriage in the Church.

Diogenes blogs upon declining rates of Catholic marriage in the Archdiocese of Boston. One of his commenters complains that it is because not enough clergy are talking about mortal sin.

I think it goes deeper than that. People need to hear more about why the Church is right about marriage, and not just why the world is wrong. The priest who prepared my husband and me for our vocation as a married couple told us one day that Catholic marriage is what everyone wants deep down, but they don't know it. Having now reached the end of my first year as a married Catholic woman, I have to say I believe this is true. Unfortunately, many people with whom I talk about Catholic marriage, and even more people whom we see in popular culture, do not understand this, and write off what the Church, it's Scripture, and its Tradition say about how marriages should work as being outdated, impractical, impossible, or irrelevant.

Perhaps the best way to renew marriage in the Church is for married couples who see why Catholic marriage actually works to witness through their own families to those around them. This can be done in an official capacity, such as through Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter weekends. It can also simply be a question of living your life, and letting other people see it so they say, "I want a marriage like that!" My husband and I both know people, even in our own extended families who do not understand the fullness of what marriage can be. We hope, that as we live out our vocation, God will use us as an example of what is possible, even when the world says otherwise.

Nod: Tito

Tolkien's Women: Marian Imagery in The Silmarillion

I have been re-visiting the Silmarillion. It has been awhile since my last reading of it.

One of the things that has always stood out to me is the beauty and strength of his female characters. I have always suspected that reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary had something to do with it. This time, I have been reading more carefully, and I'm finding little bits of her scattered among the various Queens of the Valar, who contain attributes or bear titles resembling those of Mary. This may be old news to some people, but as I am newly appreciating it, I thought I'd share some of the juicier bits.

I include relevant passages here with commentary (emphasis mine):

Varda is the closest equivalent in Middle Earth to the Queen of Heaven (sound familiar?).

With Manwë dwells Varda, Lady of the Stars, who knows all the region of Eä. Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Illúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy. Out of the deeps of Eä she came to the aid of Manwë; for Melkor she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him, and he hated her, and feared her more than all the others whom Eru made. Manwë and Varda are seldom parted, and they remain in Valinor... Of all the Great Ones who dwell in the world the Elves hold Varda most in reverence and love. Elbereth they name her, and they call upon her name out of the shadows of Middle Earth and uplift it in song at the rising of the stars.

To Yavanna, one might also apply the Marian titles "Lady of the Woods" and "Ever Green and Fruitful". There are also other titles which include tree references such as Forthbringer of the Tree of Life, God's Olive Tree, and Olive Tree of the Father's Compassion. The first of these may not apply in quite the same way to Yavanna, though she does literally bring forth two very important trees in Middle Earth mythology. The last two are especially interesting in light of the following passage from the Valaquenta:

The spouse of Aulë is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits. ... Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun, and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn, but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwë spoke in its leaves.

Both Yavanna and the Blessed Virgin are given tree-like attributes. The former in her description and behavior, the latter in her Titles.

In Nienna we have a "Lady of Sorrows" and a "Lady of Tears", to whom sufferers can look for an example of wisdom in the midst of hardship:

Mightier than Estë is Nienna... She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor. ... But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. ...and all those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom.

While Mary is sometimes dubbed "Star of the Sea, among the Maiar there is Uinen, "Lady of the Seas" whose intercession is powerful for those traveling on ships. Her spouse is Ossë, whose realm is the waters along the shore, and whose chief delight is in storms and the chaos of the waves. In the Valaquenta it says, " her mariners cry, for she can lay calm upon the waves, restraining the wildness of Ossë"

Some critics complain that there are not enough female protagonists in Tolkien to balance out the large number of males. Tend to disagree. The women in Tolkien's work are often given some of the most important work in the history of middle earth, and usually without them, the work of the male heroes would becoem extra difficult or even impossible. When Manwë has Varda by his side, he can see more clearly (Also an interesting commentary on marriage, but I'll save that for another post). Ossë needs Uinen to restrain his wild personality. Melian protected Thingol's kingdom of Doriath with her power. Beren needed Luthien to capture the Silmaril, and entire armies needed Eowyn of Rohan to slay the Witch King of Angmar. The strength and heroism of the great female characters in Middle Earth demonstrates that he recognizes how important women can be in the course of history, whether they are known or nameless. Among women, there is no better example of this in the primary world than that of a young girl saying "yes" when an angel tells her her she will bear God's Son, and who stands by him even as he is nailed to a Cross for the sins of the world.

Things like this are why I can read Tolkien's works over and over again and never tire of them. Each time is an opportunity to re-examine a facet of his sub-created world, and to discover in that process another aspect of the beauty of the primary world, and the great works that God has done in it.

For an extensive list of Marian titles, click here.
For more information on the Tolkien universe, see the Encyclopedia of Arda

Saturday, June 23, 2007


...a celebrity dispute worth our time. Fernanda Tavares explains the facts of life (as opposed to abortion) to fellow supermodel Giselle Bundchen.

Nod: Catholic Pro-Life Committee

I'm stilll here!

I know it's been awhile since I posted. Just letting my small handful of loyal readers know (assuming any of them are still here) that I haven't gone away. Posts will resume at something resembling their former frequency during the next few days.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Surprise! Inane journalism means inane news.

As an English major, I could have chosen to become a journalist instead of a teacher. Recently, I was reminded why I didn't.

In spite of all that is going on the world today, newspapers seem to be having trouble finding stories. How this is possible, I do not know. I do know this: reporters are at their stupidest when they are desperate for a story. If they can't find a scandal, they'll create one, out of thin air if they can. It's a fairly juvenile attention-getting technique, but, hey, it sells newspapers.

I'm all for reporting real problems with schools and educators. Like, say, when a high school principal gets arrested for selling illegal drugs, that is worth knowing, and that is the kind of thing we expect to see printed.

By contrast, an incident in which a small town high school principal takes necessary and appropriate measures to shut down a pre-meditated, pre-organized, and totally out of control food fight is hardly noteworthy. But, when the children in question whined anonymously to the editor of the local paper about the punishments put in place, their opinions actually got printed.

What punishment were they whining about? No trip to Disneyland for "Grad Nite" for the entire senior class.

The complaint? (don't forget to imagine this in a whiny adolescent voice...) "But other grades did it..." blah, blah, blah.

Remember, the incident was orgainized and started by seniors. Remember also that the complaint to the newspaper was made anonymously, because the students who wrote it wanted to avoid "ramifications". Translation: They're guilty---and annoyed that their anonymity didn't allow them to get away with it.

Now, I've been to Grad Nite. I had a blast. But was hardly the peak of my life. Let's face it, I could have lived a perfectly happy life if I hadn't had that "once in a lifetime experience", which happens to be privilege, and not a right. Frankly, kids who will orchestrate mischief on campus, after repeated warnings, shouldn't be trusted to run around an amusement park with minimal supervision. This is especially clear when one considers that this particular on-campus mischief was so out of control that the school has to be placed in lockdown, and it created (I am not making this up) EIGHT HOURS of extra cleanup work for the custodial staff. Be assured, Disneyland would have no problem banning the entire school from Grad Nite for the next 20 years if these kids pulled something like that over there.

Now of course, the beauty of blanket punishment such as this is that the innocent will soon rat out the guilty because they want to go party at the end of senior year. So it was here, and Grad Nite privileges were restored to those who were not involved, once the culprits had been sorted out. Justice was served. And life went on.

And a week went by.

And then one of San Diego County's largest newspapers picks up on the story---and prints it again, using it as an opportunity to paint an experienced and highly competent school administrator as---well---anything but what he is. Seriously, what do the reporters expect? That a principal will be swayed by the whining of a couple of cowardly 17-year-olds who won't put their names to their complaints? That the lunch lady can just say, "Pardon me, would you mind not throwing food in here?" and expect the food fight to stop? Please.

Given the extent of the property damage here, I'd venture to say he handled the situation very wisely. Adolescents do not have a lot of forethought in large groups, especially once they get caught up in a frenzy. They will not consider that if a person with a short temper gets ketchup in his eye, he might take it personally, and a food fight could soon become an on-campus brawl leading to injuries, property damage, public outrage, and lawsuits. Any experienced school administrator, especially one who used to work at one of the largest schools in San Diego County, will know this, and take preventative measures to avoid such escalation.

So here we have a perfectly reasonable administrator, just doing his job at an obscure school in an obscure town. No big deal.

And yet, a major newspaper, in one of Southern California's major metropolitan areas, instead of reporting on something interesting or important, prefers to waste paper and ink on a food fight and a lot of immature teenage whining. The Union Tribune reporter knew this story wasn't newsworthy, but he printed it anyway, and his editors let him do it. And they wonder why we're not rushing out to buy newspaper subscriptions.

This is a real problem with the media. We expect journalists to be able to report things fairly and accurately, and to be able to discern the difference between actual news and immature attempts at attention getting from disgruntled high school students.

If they can't do that, how can we trust them to report on real problems in education, much less with elections and wars?

Just wondering...

Friday, June 1, 2007

We've got Carbon offsets. Up Next: Birth Offsets?

Having too many children is now officially a sin in the Environmental Religion, according to an Australian Newspaper:

HAVING large families should be frowned upon as an environmental misdemeanour in the same way as frequent long-haul flights, driving a big car and failing to reuse plastic bags, says a report to be published today by a green think tank.

The paper by the Optimum Population Trust will say that if couples had two children instead of three they could cut their family's carbon dioxide output by the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said: "The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights.

"The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child."

So, it's not about preserving resources any more. It's about minimizing those luxury fashion accessories, like SUV's. Or children. Who would have thought that the two were of equal value?

The cumulative pitter-patter of little feet, and the child-size carbon footprints they leave behind has the population control gurus scared:

The world's population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050. Almost all the growth will take place in developing countries

"Oh, horror!" cries the population control machine! "We've been trying so hard in the "developed" world to take care of the environment! But, those childish primitive people in the developing world (and a few stubborn religious right types here in the first world) refuse to be enlightened by birth control, and are still breeding like bunny rabbits!" What's an environmentalist wacko to do?

Never fear, population control advocates. I have the solution for those of you who want to offset the "damage" done by those of us "breeders" who are Christians, Mormons, or denizens of the un-developed world.

The best part of this solution is that many "childfree" folks have already put it into place. Here it is: walk your talk and just stop having children.

And maybe stop talking so much. Breathing emits carbon dioxide, you know.

Maybe we can even get Al Gore to pay you.

Of course, it means you'll eventually be outnumbered by the rest of us, but no sacrifice is too great for the cause, now is it?

Hat Tip: Pertinacious Papist

Classist Bigotry

Yep, you heard me. Dawn Eden hits the nail on the head once again,and exposes race and class prejudice for what it is.