Thursday, May 20, 2004

Did He Say What I Think He Said?  He Did?  Pull the Plug.

There’s a show called Kid’s Say the Darnedest Things?, hosted by Bill Cosby, according to what I Googled up, though I think it was originally an Art Linkletter show.  If I’m not mistaken, most of what the kids said was funny.  Not everything kids say is funny, though, and if something a kid says, at graduation say, during a commencement speech, isn’t funny, or is critical of the school, what is an administrator to do?  Why, pull the plug, of course.

“It was not the speech that school officials approved.

So they pulled the plug on Nicholas Noel’s commencement speech to fellow graduates Wednesday night when in the fourth sentence the senior class president referred to Grand Rapids Union High School as a “prison.”

Besides pulling the plug on the class president’s speech, what else can be done to learn this kid a lesson.

“As more than 1,000 people watched, power to the microphone was cut and Noel returned to his seat at Ford Fieldhouse. Officials later refused to give him his diploma, although a school spokeswoman said he would receive it soon.”

What else did the class president have to say, you ask?

“Noel said he described the school as “the Union High Prison System” because students were expected to act alike. The message of his speech was that high school paints for students “a picture of life that is incomplete,” he said.

“The colors of life are yet to come,” Noel said. “It was really nice, nothing in bad taste. I tried to be different, and I was punished.”

He said the rest of his speech would have been positive if he had been allowed to finish it. A copy of his written speech goes on to call Union a “foul institution” and a “horribly irresponsible and depraved place to learn these life lessons….”

But it also said Union’s mix of cultures provides “bizarre training” for the real world. He wraps up by quoting Hunter S. Thompson: “Who is the happier man, He who has braved the storm of life and lived. Or he who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed.”

I think this kid is already happier than the majority of his fellow graduates, and definitely happier than the life force sucking administrators in charge of the school.

“Unplugged: School silences graduate’s speech.”

Update:  In a similar vein, Radley Balko points us to a story of renegade poets, renegade highschool poets that is, who, having the audacity to critcize the war against terrorism, and President Bush, in their poetry, have been disbanded, their teacher fired, and jingoistic poems, substituted for the critical poems, recited around the raising of the flag.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 03:24 PM
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Pedagogue for Philosophy

Though the word pedagogue can carry negative connotations, such as boring or pedantic, at this stage in my life, I wish I would have been exposed to more philosophy, beyond religious philosophy, when I was younger.  Claire Elise Katz appears to think along somewhat similar lines, in that she has penned an essay, published in Cross Currents, titled “TEACHING OUR CHILDREN WELL,” which carries the subtitle of “Pedagogy, Religion, and the Future of Philosophy.”

Katz’s piece notes the kinship between religion and philosophy, and also highlights the division between the two disciplines currently.  Additionally, some of Katz’s ideas in regards to encouraging young individuals to have an interest in philosophy, and to actually think about it rather than feel, will not sit well with those who think any mention of religion in schools is akin to forcing individuals to believe in God, but I think her ideas have some merit.

At 6,896 words, the piece will take a bit of your time to read, but it will not be wasted time.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 11:24 AM
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Conjuring Up Poverty

This morning, the Washington Post has a longish article on poverty titled “The Hard Times Never Left.”  The article portends to chronicle the hard times in the panhandle of Maryland, commencing with Lyndon Johnson’s visit, forty years ago, when the “war” on poverty was launched.

While thinking about this, I wondered if individuals reading the article understand what living in poverty actually means.  Merriam-Webster defines poverty, primarily, as “1 a : the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”  A fairly broad definition, if you ask me, and, rather vague, also, when you consider the definition includes “...a usual socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”  Whatever that means.

When I think of poverty, I recall some of my wanderings through the Philippines.  Individuals living in shacks made from hammered flat tin cans, with no bathrooms, running water, or electricity.  I recall the looks of young kids, who, when I would reach into my extra large backpack and pull out an orange, or an apple, and drop it into their outstretched hands, would run off holding the orange or apple, like a trophy, proudly displaying the fruit to whomever was wandering in the street, and pointing back at me as if I was a god, or Santa Claus.  I recall young women, who, not wanting to work in a local brothel, would stand in dugout canoes in the Olongapo River, which we called the Shit River because of the flowing raw sewage within, begging for coins, and sailors throwing coins to them, and into the river itself, and young boys diving into Shit River to retreive the coins, peso coins, even centavo coins, because that was how they lived.  As scroungers.  In poverty.

Then I thought about the definition of poverty, provided above, and that portion of the definition of poverty dealing with what is socially acceptable as poverty.  As I considered that definition, I thought of areas here locally in Grand Rapids, Michigan where supposed poverty exists, at least according to the media.  Areas I drive through almost everyday.  Similar areas that you may drive through everyday in your neck of the woods.  What I see in this supposed underpriviliged area, an alleged area of poverty, is individuals living in rather shabby homes, with electricity, running water, telephones, satellite dishes, two or three run down cars, wearing the newest $150.00 dollar sneakers, and cell phones dangling from belts.

Is that, now, the socially acceptable definition of poverty?

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 09:07 AM
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They Can’t Have Just Figured This Out

“Heart study: Devices and drugs save lives.”

This is news?

Via Google News.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 08:21 AM
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A Thing of Beauty is a Pleasure to Behold

Take a look at this 1964 Les Paul ES-345.  When I clicked the link to that guitar this morning, and viewed it waiting patiently in its stand, I thought of a fresh scrubbed young man, tuxedoed for a prom date, waiting patiently in the foyer for his dream date.  It is a lovely guitar.

Via Billy Beck.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 06:59 AM
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There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch, I Guess, If You’re A Government Employee

I used to think there was no such thing as a free lunch, but, it hasn’t been true here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, evidently.  The city spent 64K last year on lunches for employees.  What I find even more outraegous than this fact, is the following justification statement from Assistant City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

“We’re a big business,” he said. “Our expenses are not inappropriate or irresponsible.”

I think Mr. Sundstrom is in need of some remedial economic training, if he does not realize the difference between a business and a government bureaucracy.

“City’s meal tab too high, Tormala says.”

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 06:50 AM
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The Enthusiasm of a 75 Year Old

“Beckoned by a lavish buffet of Internet dating sites, Luizzi, 75, can sound like a teenage boy who has crept into the girls’ locker room.

“I specify women between 58 and 75, and they’ll come up with 25 pages of women. Ten to a page!” says Luizzi, a slight man with a roguish smile and a head of snow-white hair. “That’s a lot of choice and a lot of possibility.”

You go Jack Luizzi.

“Internet Dating Goes Gray.”

Via The Obscure Store.

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 06:02 AM
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And Here I Thought It Was Motorcycle Awareness Month

The electronic billboards, along US 131 here in West Michigan, have been advertising the fact that it is motorcycle awarenss month.  I didn’t know there was a motorcycle awarenss month, until I saw the electronic billboards.  But, I also didn’t know it was John Stuart Mill Month, at least according to the Mises Economics Blog.  I’d much rather see John Stuart Mill Month advertised along the highway, but not because I have anything against motorcycles.

Gary Galles puts together a collection of Mill quotes, at the link above, to refresh in your mind some of the more pertinent thoughts of Mill.  Here’s one.

“The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own…Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest…”

Posted by John Venlet on 05/20 at 05:48 AM
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