Friday, May 28, 2010

The Inside Voice

While sitting in the comfy chairs at Starbucks this morning, my oldest son and I had our conversation involuntarily altered by injecting a lot of what did you say? and can you repeat? Across the room sat a lady who apparently was capable of using her inside voice to converse with her companion suddenly deemed it essential that she needed to speak loudly on her cell phone. Really loudly. It is doubtful that this person ever realizes that her speaking volume is no way associated to her hearing volume?  I was reminded of days of those nice Koss stereo headphones my less astute family members would use while attempting to talk resulting only in raising their own voice apparently for my benefit. A curious reaction to music in their own ears.  So is loud cell use an involuntary reflex of sensory bombardment or simple rude behaviour of the person perhaps presuming that no one cares about being forced to hear their side of a conversation? There may be something else. That is habit.

Often times the excitement of the conversation is driving this need to be louder than what is is considered customary or reasonable for the immediate environment. The person engaged in this one half of conversation is unaware of their action because the other half of the conversation is not there to provide real time visual feedback.  Since cell phone technology is digital, it does not make the signal any better if you are almost yelling or holding it like Captain Kirk talking but without the ability to hear. A bad connection full of incomplete words cannot be remedied by this technique.

Maybe the solution to break this bad habit for the benefit of everyone in earshot is to simply look at the person and clue the clueless by your sudden notice. If that fails, there is always the option to relocate your conversation to their proximity, increase your own volume, and work in the subject of human behaviour and civility. Of course, one could get up and just walk away. But why impact yourself unnecessarily from the burden imposed by others?  One could ask who are you to do this to just confront a social bully? Well, Captain Kirk would argue Who do I have to be? I think the key to civility is expectations and managing these appropriately.  If the offender get mad, you can always say, What? in your loudest non-yell voice.

Of course, you could end up with hot coffee in your face if you live in Brooklyn for making such demands on a person, so there are risks. Ah...stereotypes and archetypes. Where would we be without them!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A New Standard in Bias

I came across the headline of the pending changes to the Texas educational standards and ended up frustrated, mad and confused. All this had to be an exaggeration, conjecture, or something I just misunderstood. The simple fact is, the absurdity is understated. A quick reading of the actual draft left me perplexed and concerned. A more careful read made me angry. The neat thing about a draft is the changes and evolution of the document just pop out leaving little to imagination about the intent of the author.

Read the draft HERE.

So these non-educated, non-historians, nonsensical board members have done their work. It's quite interesting to see how their thoughts come together. What they decide to leave in, what they decide to leave out speaks volumes. Their choice of words speak much as well as the context which they are used. Words such as imperialism, expansionism, and aggression are used with deliberation.

What is driving all this? Members of board would suggest their objective was to move things to the center from the left. The center? What about historical facts? Apparently the impact of the telegraph or vaccines is considered left wing. One could ask if Bill Clinton's sex scandal truly warrants to be considered an incident or scandal, as the draft revision puts it, but there is no mention of Oliver North and Ronald Reagan's involvement with the Iran-Contra affair. The former being incorrectly characterized as an impeachment, when it was technically did not ever make to a senate vote and the latter being technically high treason. If you read the draft you may consider the implications on how New Deal creations like the FDIC and the SEC affect your daily life, but the Patriot Act simply has a role in your life. It does not get the same suggested concern and is made to sound more benign than the SEC or the FDIC? The board believes George Wallace worthy of discussion but Thomas Jefferson is removed as not being relevant to enlightenment? We cannot reasonably expect that any person has zero bias, but what is so extraordinary here is that the bias is so blatant.

Below is my imagined meeting notes:

  • Refer to it as Bill Clinton's impeachment as if it were fact. But as far as any other incidents similar to this - make that scandals - leave it to just Watergate and Teapot Dome. Let's leave the names out. For crying out loud, do not refer to the Iran-Contra affair, ever!
  • McCarthy was vindicated by history. We have some letters to prove it, even though we still cannot find the names he was naming as those papers were blank sheets. So what if the reality of his committee was a witch hunt. The ends do justify the means and there were at least a couple of spies. Understood?
  • Some unnamed groups in the 1960s simply wanted to keep the "status quo" on civil rights. That's all. Nothing wrong with the status quo. No need for specifics on events, who these groups are, or even what that really means. It is not racism. It's the status quo and emphasise that change is scary.
  • Geography and geographic factors are to INCLUDE Panama Canal and the failed levies in New Orleans. Really. these are geographical. The dust bowl and great plains are geographical as well. Even though it was likely I was taught only the great plains were 'geographical'. The canal and levies were 'made' constructs, but so what. The Dust Bowl was just an era of bad climate and bad policy of ripping of topsoil and god knows we cannot bring up bad farm policies or admit the effects of climate change.
  • When it comes to society and resources, let's remove the notion of conservation. Instead, let's ONLY talk about the Fed taking your property. Really! Teddy Roosevelt was wrong to do this stuff.
  • Rock and Roll is the term used in describing mainstream pop culture along with some other forms of music such as country and western. I know its not 1955 people, but quite frankly I don't care. Let's not bring up jazz or any great American composers though as their influence must be minimal. But at the same time, let's study 'some literature' but let's remove anything specific on Grapes of Wrath and such. Maybe Grapes is covered in geography when discussing the Dust Bowl?
  • Upton Sinclair's The Jungle need not be considered any more. It might make people question their food supply once again. Just do not talk about it and no one will even consider how the food gets there. Whatever you do, no references to George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984.
  • America's expansion no longer refers to America actually increasing its size or expanding through immigration and acquisition of territory. It refers to external threats such as Hawaii, Guam, and Cuba.
  • Social Darwinism? Is that what we renamed Evolutionary Psychology? Well, let's talk about this in the context of Prohibition, Red Scare, race relations, and the changing roles of females. I do not exactly understand what it is meant by Social Darwinism in the context with the others subjects, but I'll make something up as it sounds really good.
  • Please refer to the Battle of Midway as an 'issue' in WWII. Consider contextual discussion as Holocaust and Japanese Internment 'issues'. We'll discuss 'military events' such as the Bataan Death March, the invasion of Normandy, and 'military advancement' in another section. Make sure there is nothing too provocative that may suggest or interferes with us be portrayed as the protagonist.
  • Use the term home front when referring to the US in WWII. I had no idea the Germans and Japanese had standing armies here. Must have been how New Braunfel's was founded. Really, though - it sounds a lot better than suggesting we exclusively went off to war some 'place' no one today can even find on a map. The last thing we need is the kids thinking globally.
  • Was it American Indian Code Talkers? I am not sure on this. I will leave it there and we'll fix it later when we get our story straight on how we want this topic discussed, if at all.

  • The US expanded after WWII. The USSR was the aggressor. They did not expand. Get it? By the way, make sure you talk about JFK's role in the Cuban Missile thing. He is to be referenced by name. Other events post WWII? We'll just talk about some of the events, no need to get into names here. I am sure there were reasons, but let's keep it consistent with our narrative? OK?

  • There is the USA and there are other Foreign countries. Not other countries. Other sovereign nations can only be sovereign if we set up the regime so they fall in line and will NEVER give us issues. Let's be honest here, why would we would ever get involved if they were sovereign to begin with? Maybe if they had oil, gold, or diamonds, but I would have some doubts. Let's take the time to make this clear, righteous sounding, and simple. Never mind if sounds a little ominous, these kids won't appreciate the nuance and might help with recruitment.

  • Don't forget the Social Gospel. We'll discuss this one in detail later at our meeting on wedge issues to fight those sciency people by teaching the controversy. Maybe we can mix in to discussion on urbanisation or some social discussion on intelligent design?

Also, a hat tip the folks who managed to get military oriented short films in the elementary schools as well as visits to the elementary school by currently surviving service personnel on leave. Without any expectation of our wars ending or a clear purpose there is little point in wasting a decade or so before we hit the high school students with marketing 'service' as their best option. It is not like the standards we are setting will prepare anyone for college or the job market. A decade ago I would not have imagined we'd have such material as this available to our youngest students. Well done!

All the above notes could be true!

Proposed Revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 113