The Hypocrisy of Bleeding Heart Teachers

I’m talking to you, Wisconsin.

I bet the union thugs shutting down learning in Wisconsin, taking students out of school for political reasons the kids don’t even understand and sabotaging the process of education, are the same teachers who usually claim to “love” their students, being extra kind to them and making sure that class is fun. 

I’ve known tons of teachers like this. They look at their work as a “calling.”  They likely embrace all the latest watered-down edu-fads sponsored by the experts, and look down their noses at the cynical conservative teachers who are just here to do an important job and do it right. 

The thing is, teachers who revel in the warm, fuzzy side of the profession are rarely the selfless shepherds of youth they want you to think they are.  They’re in love with an image of themselves as the cherished, inspiring heroes of society. 

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Political Baloney Detector

In The Demon Haunted World, scientist Carl Sagan described a “baloney detection kit” that he would have liked to see taught in school, with such tools as skepticism and logical fallacies to help people keep from being suckered.  It’s a great idea, and I’ve employed something similar in my readings of current events in politics.

I won’t succumb to the pressure to declare myself “independent” or “moderate,” those new buzzwords that constitute the cool meme in the political mainstream; I’m a conservative through and through.  That being said, though, that hardly means that all people or parties calling themselves that are always correct.  As I employ my Political Baloney Detector, I can spot cheap shots and see many public statements and actions for the transparent pandering they are. 

Here’s how it works: whenever a politician criticizes someone with a differing view, I ask myself how authentic the complaint would sound if the roles were reversed.  By this method, I can almost always see the playacting, and the smoke and mirrors, and not get distracted from real issues by these silly tricks.

Don’t get me wrong–many things of substance get said in our public realm, by both sides of the aisle, but they also each spew enough manure that it’s useful to be able to discount it quickly.  If a statement addresses a legitimate issue, then it needs to be analyzed and discussed on its merits, measured against principles (and that’s what our conversations should really be about–the political principles that we give priority; that’s where our disagreements come from), and I think that such a focus is important enough and demands enough energy that we owe it to our principles, if we’re serious about them, not to let ourselves be taken by the cheap tricks along the way. 

Two examples:

In December, Democrats in Congress said they’d be willing to work on Christmas to finish their work.  Continue reading

Teachers and the Ninety and Nine

I’m haunted by the Biblical story about leaving the ninety and nine sheep safely in the fold to go rescue the one lost sheep:

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  (Matthew 18:12-13)

As a teacher, does this mean that I should ignore the students who are succeeding and more self-sufficient and spend my time trying to “save” struggling students?

Certainly, this is the mainstream philosophy of public education: I had plenty of professors in college who told prospective teachers, “Don’t worry about the smart kids–they can take care of themselves.”  On any campus of which I’ve ever had any substantial knowledge, the number of programs targeting (and the amount of budget invested in) the needs of high achieving students was dwarfed by the gargantuan industry that is remediation, credit retrieval, and discipline, among plenty more.  A case can be made for these priorities; after all, there are (sadly but honestly) far more kids in America today on the left side of the bell curve than on the right. 

However, mere majority shouldn’t dictate our standards.  Might it not better serve the long range interests of our nation by agreeing to raise the bar and fully develop the potential of those with the most of it, rather than focusing almost exclusively on making minimal gains with the very lowest skilled?  How well would any hospital operate (to borrow a metaphor from Walter Williams) if the vast majority of effort was spent on emergency cases nearing terminal status, and letting the stable patients fend for themselves? 

Still, this doesn’t help me in the classroom, for surely the Savior’s injunction means something to me; it must apply somehow. 

I think I’m figuring out a way in which it does. 

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Death and Perspective

Reading Aeschylus’s play Agamemnon today, I was most touched by the portion where the clairvoyant Cassandra waxes poetic about her impending doom.  She says:

Why am I then so pitiful?  Why must I weep?

…I will go through with it.  I too will take my fate. 

I call as on the gates of death upon these gates

to pray only for this thing, that the stroke be true,

and that with no convulsion, with a rush of blood

in painless death, I may close up these eyes, and rest.  (1286-1294)

 

I’m not sure if such an attitude predicts Roman Stoicism or is simply fatalistic, but her frank courage in facing an imminent and ignominious death reminds me of a few of the prophets in the Book of Mormon, men who similarly looked down the barrel of immediate demise and never blinked.  Unlike Cassandra, though, their motivating characteristic is in no doubt: they trusted God implicitly and thus had no reservations about going full speed ahead on the errands to which He had appointed them.

Take three representative examples.  First, Abinadi.  As this lone, wild man confronted the court of wicked King Noah, a prisoner, surrounded by those who had chosen to hate him and set themselves against him, he withstood their taunts and tempts with nothing more than teaching and testimony.  At one point, he speaks the truth so boldly that he radiates holiness, stunning his would-be adversaries.  He remarks on this condition, their physical inability to reach out and kill him, but then says, “But I finish my message: and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved” (Mosiah 13:9).  Before continuing his doctrinal dissertation, he then adds that what they do to him would be a type of how they themselves would die. 

Abinadi knew that he was being preserved by divine power, but he also knew that such protection was temporary, that it would only last until the mission was done.  If that had been me, I might have been tempted to draw out the lesson a little bit!  Abinadi, however, calmly and confidently finished his message, knowing full well that after he’d delivered it, the Lord would then let him suffer the death his listeners were so eager to mete out.  Did he resent that?  Was he afraid?  No.  As he’d said, being saved is all that matters. 

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A Scriptural Warning Against Navel Gazing and Hand Wringing

In our Sunday School class today, the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees in Doctrine and Covenants 101:43-62 was brought to our attention to help teach about following the prophets.  I hadn’t paid much attention to this story before, but it strongly underscores some things on my mind lately. 

This parable is meant, in the strictest context, to illustrate to the early Latter-day Saints the importance of helping to gather and establish Zion, as opposed to their general reluctance to do so previously.  The story has a nobleman with a field of olive trees, which he gives to the care of a staff of servants who are charged with building hedges and towers around it for security.  The servants promptly overanalyze their orders, debating its merits; after all, they say, this is a time of peace, and couldn’t the money be better spent on humanitarian projects (D&C 101:47-49)?  While they discoursed with each other, an enemy did come in and destroy the trees. 

Like all parables, this one would seem to have a broader application, as well.  If the Lord’s intention in telling this story was to impress upon us his “will concerning the redemption of Zion,” we could extend this to mean Zion in general, as in each of our families, wards, stakes, and the church’s spiritual condition overall.

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