Category Archives: crossover

What is “Reasonable”?

I originally posted this on Teacher’s Education, but I’m putting it here, too, because it echos a lot of the thinking I’ve been doing here, so if you read both places, don’t be surprised if you get a feeling of déjà vu.

Each of my classes is currently engaged in a unit about public speaking. My freshmen are giving purely informational presentations – I’ve tasked them with learning about something interesting and then teaching the rest of the class about it. Since I like to do my own homework every once in a while, I’m doing this presentation with them. Mine will be about the first round of the Nuremberg Trials.

My juniors are taking on an opinion presentation – they’ve been told to format their presentation around “here’s this thing that exists, here’s what I think about it, and here’s why I think the way I do,” and my seniors are attempting an argumentative/persuasive piece – they’re crafting an presentation that asks the audience to consider – or to reconsider – a particular topic.

Each of these presentations has three requirements – they need to have visuals, they need a written component, and the kids have to speak for 3-5 minutes or (5-8 for the bigger kids). Additionally, they need to have at least three reputable sources, and they need to be organized such that the audiences can follow along, even if they’ve never had any experience with the topic in question.

I ended up in a conversation with my seniors this afternoon that intrigued me. It was a bit of an offshoot of the conversation we started on Tuesday when I brought up the concepts of ethical speech and what our responsibilities are to the words that we send out into the world. While I had planned this part of the unit to fall on this week anyway, I’m often amazed by how timely the Universe is in dropping relevant, real-world stuff into my lap at the exact time I’m teaching them in a classroom. The Arizona shooting and the conversation about rhetoric that has inspired were just such a thing, and we had a long and interesting discussion about whether or not we can (or should) link the speech of one to the action of another.

Anyway, several of the kids came to me with topics that really weren’t appropriate for argument, and I spent a while trying to get the kids to understand that I’m looking for them to tackle the kinds of issues about which reasonable people can disagree. It’s highly unlikely, I explained to one kid, that reasonable people are going to agree with what the Westboro Baptist Church does, so arguing against their right to do those things is kind of a pointless exercise. So, too, is arguing against animal rights abuses; most reasonable people would agree that it’s wrong to be cruel and abusive to animals.

Just about when I thought I was getting through to them, one of my (favorite) kids piped up. “Mrs. Chili,” he asked, “what does it mean to be reasonable?”

Yeah! Wow! What DOES that mean?

We spent a good long time talking about the implications of making that kind of judgment about something. How DO we determine what reasonable means? What are the criteria by which we judge that kind of person?

The answers the kids came up with both surprised and delighted me. Reasonable people, they decided, are people who, by their nature, are open-minded. They’re willing to listen to others’ ideas, but aren’t necessarily swayed by them. Reasonable people are critical thinkers and don’t just jump on the latest and greatest ideas. They don’t give a whole lot of credence to the people who are making the most noise, but are more impressed by the people who make the clearest and most compelling argument. Reasonable people take the big picture into account; a reasonable person may be willing to concede to something not-so-good in the short term to ensure a positive outcome long-term. Reasonable people are compassionate and consider the needs of others when making decisions or taking actions. Reasonable people may well be considered unreasonable by outside observers, they decided, but it’s not one’s reputation that determines one’s reasonableness; one’s behaviors, thought processes, and actions determine this (some of my kids are very sensitive to the fact that our school doesn’t yet have a very good reputation, and they take that personally). Reasonable people do not generally abide extremes, they decided, nor do reasonable people generally rely upon “faith” to make their decisions; they are more influenced by their own experiences and observations and the facts that they encounter than they are by scripture or the words of their particular flavor of clergy. Reasonable people are willing to change their minds about something when they’re presented with compelling evidence to do so.

We ended the conversation by talking about the idea put forth on a church’s message board:

Learning to think for themselves, and learning to do that reasonably, is perhaps the most important thing I can encourage my students to do. To that end, I give them every opportunity I can find, and I ask them to think in whatever ways they can, whether those ways agree with my way of thinking or not (because learning to disagree with civility is absolutely vital, and learning to disagree with those in authority is a life skill).

So I ask you, Dear Readers, what would you add to my kids’ definition of what makes one reasonable? Do you think you embody those qualities? If not, where can you strive to bring more reasonableness into your life?

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Filed under admiration, compassion and connection, concerns, crossover, doing my duty, Home and Family, ideas and opinions, learning, messages from the Universe, politics, Questions, ruminating, social issues, this is NOT a drill, Worries and Anxieties

The Day Off

My day was sort of a mixed bag, you guys. That’s what you get for having a teenager in the house.

I got to sleep in (well, until the cat started yelling for breakfast at about 6:30. I got up to kick her out and returned to bed with orders to Mr. Chili to make sure that every four-legged member of the family spends tonight outdoors). I also got my lovely, long shower (but not my pancakes.  I’m not quite sure how that happened…)

I did not, however, get to see the showing of the film we’d hoped to attend as Ms. Punkin’ Pie got in a snit about something entirely unrelated to anything and tossed a big old wet blanket on what was shaping up to be a really great day.

For those of you who might be new here (or who haven’t been paying very close attention), the eldest of the Chili children, Punkin’ Pie, is 12. For all that she is a truly fantastic young lady, she is struggling a bit with the transition from little person to adult (didn’t we all?). She is grappling with some pretty serious self-esteem issues (brought on, I think, by the relationships she has – or not – with her “friends”). She finds herself unable to control her emotions, particularly anger and aggravation. She’s easily frustrated and has a tendency to think the worst of a situation before taking the time to really assess what’s going on.  In short, she’s often short, contrary, and dismissive.

The upset today was about shoes, but it wasn’t really about shoes at all.  One of Beanie’s friends had called this morning to ask about getting together to play today.  This friend rankles on Punkin’ because, I think, she’s jealous of the easy relationship her sister has with this friend (who, coincidentally, is also called “Beanie” in her household.  It’s actually very convenient; when the girls are together, I just yell “Hey, Beanie!” and they both come running).  My Bean has invited this friend to spend a night with us at the lake in two weeks, and Punkin’s not yet been able to find a friend who can stay.  The call this morning set Punkin’ off on a downward spiral of “Bean’s going to get her stupid friend to come to the lake and none of MY friends will be able to go.”  As a result of this, she decided she didn’t want to go to the lake at all.

This didn’t sit well with Daddy, who’s been planning this vacation almost since the day we checked out of the lake house last year.  He asked her to not worry about this today; that there was still a whole week to plan and that there were other alternatives to what she saw as her primary obstical (we decree that the friend has to make at least one of the trips – either up to the lake or back – on her own.  We’ll take them one way, but someone else has to provide transportation for the other direction).

Punkin’s general funk over her perceived lack of available friends led directly to a pointless and frustrating fight about footwear.  Daddy wanted her to wear sneakers (his argument was that the theatre floors are often sticky and dirty, and open sandals weren’t the best choice).  She wanted to wear her flip-flops.  Both of them dug in and neither was willing to back down, despite their both understanding that it was a stupid and meaningless argument.  I got caught in the middle of it, agreeing with Punkin’ that she should get to wear what she wants, but believing that Daddy had a good suggestion.  No one could win.

It eventually worked out, after I insisted that Punkin’ get to the heart of what was really upsetting her (“this isn’t about shoes,” I said; “I want you to tell me what’s really fueling this.”  She eventually figured out that she’s feeling hurt and angry that she doesn’t have friends like Beanie has Bean).  Progress was made, apologies were said, and we ended up at a later showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The film was wonderful (see my musings here).  Never once did I stray from the world the story created; I didn’t think of this morning’s arguing, I didn’t think of my mother, I was completely engaged.  By the time the closing credits rolled, we were all starving, so we headed across the parking lot to our local Olive Garden (I know, Gerry, I know…).  We had a pretty surly waitress (it was probably the end of her shift, and she may have been tired.  I sincerely hope she’s not like that all the time).  I finally satisfied my three-week old chicken Marsala craving; it was worth the cranky waitress.

After making a cat food run, we headed for home where Mr. Chili plied us with chocolate malteds (YUM!).  We’re practicing a bit of sloth and idleness at the moment; the kids have been in the pool a couple of times (I tried, but DAMN, it’s cold in there!) and I put together a batch of my grandmother’s blueberry bread as muffins with the blueberries Honey, BlueMoon and I picked on the Cape last week (YUM!).

All in all, it was a great day, and one that was sorely needed.  I return to my caregiver post tomorrow, after teaching my yoga class for the first time in weeks.  It’s my hope that this day – and tomorrow’s class – will restock my energy supplies sufficiently to get me through the next five days; we leave for the lake on Saturday.

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Filed under celebration, compassion and connection, cooking, crossover, duh!, dumbassery, family matters, frustrations, fun, General Bitching, general kid stuff, Home and Family, movies, My husband rocks!, my oh-so-exciting life, Parenting, strange but true, technical difficulties, vacation, Worries and Anxieties, yoga - theory and practice

Stealing a Really Fun Idea

My friend Carson over at The Proletarian is running the election over at his place, and I thought that sounded like a grand idea, so I’m wholesale stealing it  – literally – I just cut-and-pasted the whole post, but edited out the bit about his school.  Here it is:

Composite image of Barack Obama (L) and John McCain campaigning on 2 November 2008

Rules:

  1. No pontificating political or ideological views in the comment box.
  2. No political bashing or soap boxing.
  3. Feel free to leave your name or not.
  4. I will count the total vote Wednesday morning.
  5. How do I vote? Click on the comment box and write either Obama or McCain. I will close the comment box Wednesday morning.

Carson and I have different readers, so go on over and vote at his place, too – where else are you going to be able to vote TWICE?

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Filed under admiration, celebration, crossover, doing my duty, Friends, fun, GLBTQ/Ally issues, ideas and opinions, politics, social issues

The Post That’s Disguised as a Comment

Bo wrote this post on his blog back on the 19th.  I commented on that post, and was both thoughtfully engaged and mindlessly dismissed.  I took the thoughtful engagement folks up on their offer and did a little bit of studying, and then went back to Bo’s place to talk about what I learned.  This turned into something a bit too extensive for a comment, so I’m writing it here.

I was going to quit talking about politics altogether; I’m finding that, in a lot of places, the “dialogue” has devolved into name-calling and the aforementioned mindless dismissal, and I’m just not down with that.  I was encouraged by several people I respect, though (and one of them - GASP! – is someone with whom I find more uncommon political ground with than not, but that doesn’t keep us from having civil, thoughtful conversations.  Imagine that!), so I’m throwing this out there.  NOTE TO READERS; if you can’t say what you want to say without coming off badly – and/or you’re not quite sure what that means, exactly – then don’t bother leaving a comment.  I’m all about the First Amendment and free speech, but I’m also all about respectful, considered discourse.  Be nice or leave, is what I’m sayin’.

Now that that’s out of the way, go read Bo’s post.  Go on; I’ll wait.

Back?  Ok, here’s the comment that I would have left there, but am putting here:

Ok, Bo and Greg and Lee; I’m back.  Not only did I read the Federalist #41, but I printed it, annotated it, then trucked across campus (in the rain, no less!) to one of my colleagues in the Poli-Sci department to TALK about it.

What I learned – that I was unclear about before – is that the “general welfare” bit only appears in the preamble to the Constitution; according to my PS friend, the idea of specifically providing for the general welfare was something that was left up to the individual states, and for a multitude of reasons.  She called that “police powers” and defined them as the “inherent power of governments to impose upon private rights those restrictions that are reasonably related to promotion and maintenance of the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the public. It includes restrictions upon the use of one’s property, such as zoning laws, or upon the conduct of one’s business” (this definition came from here, but it is nearly exactly what she said).  Having said that, though, she went on to say that since the New Deal and the post-Depression and WWII era, the government HAS taken on the role of guardian of the general welfare, regardless of the fact that the role hasn’t been amended to the Constitution.  “The government is clearly in the business of caretaker,” she said.  “Whether it SHOULD be or not is certainly at issue, but it’s pretty hard to deny that it is.”

Agreed.

Now, before I go on, I probably ought to make sure that I’m being clear that I’m not all Robin Hood about taxes.  I don’t want to take from the rich and give to the poor; I can’t advocate that as a function of the government (though I can make a case for those of us who are more fortunate to give freely, but I absolutely think that should be a private decision, not a government mandate).  If we can agree, though, that the government is in the welfare business (and by “welfare,” I’m talking about the larger sense of the word, not just the specific programs which operate under that term), I think that it ought to be doing a much better job than it is.

The truth of the matter is that we, as a society, pay a lot of lip service to the ideas that fall under the concept of a prospering “general welfare,” but we don’t put the money behind it.  We are really not very fiscally responsible.  I am not crazy about the idea of raising taxes for ANYONE (though I do find it interesting that the people who can most afford to pay them are the ones who complain about it the loudest.  Mr. Chili and I are in a pretty substantial bracket and while we may not LIKE dishing it out on April 15th, we do it and move on – but that may be a post for another time).  My point, really, is that we are very likely already collecting MORE than enough revenue to get done the things that need to get done.  I’m not convinced that a little financial restructuring isn’t in order before ANY tax increases are proposed.

In his Federalist Papers, Madison stated that the “general welfare” piece of the Constitution was an ideal, rather than a call for specific powers.  As I understand my colleague’s explanation, the actual law behind the “general welfare” idea was the states’ to decide.

What Madison couldn’t have known was that, some 145 years later, the federal government would jump into promoting the general welfare with both feet.  The Great Depression (and, not for nothing, the overwhelming clamor of the citizenry for relief) prompted the government to step in to the business of securing individuals through New Deal programs.

The bell has been rung, my friends, and it’s been kept ringing by almost 75 years’ worth of leadership and legislation from both parties.

I don’t want new programs.  I don’t want expanded programs.  Hell, I’m not even sure that I like all the programs we already have (how’s THAT coming from a flaky liberal?).  ALL I’m asking for is a more responsible and ethical administration of the government as a whole.  We’re fully capable of pulling this stuff off – we’re certainly smart enough, and we’ve got more than enough dough – we just have to find the moral will to do it.

*I was going to say something here about how the Constitution provides for the “common defense” (emphasis is mine) and how, if we just cut back a bit on all the offensive spending – in BOTH senses of the word – we’d suddenly find ourselves flush with more enough cash to pay off our debt, fund every program we have, send everyone to college AND cut taxes, but I’m tired and will leave that to someone else.  Whaddya say, MAB?*

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Filed under admiration, Civics on Saturday, concerns, crossover, doing my duty, Friends, frustrations, General Bitching, ideas and opinions, learning, politics, Questions, reading, ruminating, social issues

Trolls….

…I haz dem.

I suppose that when one starts gaining a wider audience of readership, one should expect that not everyone in that audience would be polite, civil, or reasonable.

I was called “crass and vulgar” here.  It kind of made me laugh, really; first of all, the implication that I am somehow unprofessional because of the language I use (and really?  In this post, there was no crass or vulgar language that I can discern) is laughable.  My effectiveness as a teacher brings to bear ALL of my language skills; I’m not afraid of any words.  Just because I occasionally choose to use words that my mother-in-law doesn’t like doesn’t mean that those are the ONLY words I have in my arsenal.

Further, I find it kind of funny that this person chose (anonymously, of course, because all the really good trolls are always anonymous) to comment about my use of the word “ass” (at least, I think that’s what triggered the scolding).  Clearly, s/he’s not been to a fucking floral Friday outing.

Finally, I’m really chuckling because this person has no idea the levels of crassness and vulgarity of which I am capable.  I am a smart, articulate, well-read and educated thinker.  I have a pretty good understanding of rhetoric and a really good grasp on the skillful use of effective language.  I don’t swear for the cheap shock value; I know how to string them together so that they really mean something.

That being said, if you can’t bring yourself to say something that’s at least a little constructive, don’t bother saying anything at all.  How about, instead of spewing ignorant dumbassery, you go engage in a nice, quiet game of hide-and-go-fuck-yourself?

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Filed under crossover, dumbassery, funniness, General Bitching, ideas and opinions, Little Bits of Nothingness, social issues, strange but true, teaching, weirdness

Why I’m Here

Last night, during the “who are you and why are you here” section of the first evening of the Holocaust fellowship, I had an opportunity to tell a story that helped to illustrate why I feel that this week was something I was obligated to do, not only as a teacher, but also as a parent and a human being.

A few months ago, Beanie and I were in the car on our way to pick Punkin’ up from track practice. Bean was in the back seat telling me about her day, and relating a story that went something like this:

Bean: “Something bad happened in school today, Mommy”

Me: “Really? What?”

“WELL, I was sitting with Jenna at our cluster (Mommy’s note – the 3rd graders’ desks are arranged in blocks of four that are called clusters. It seems that students are rotated around the clusters during the course of the year in an effort to get each kid to sit with every other kid at least once during the school year). Adam had his backpack on his desk, and it made Jenna upset.”

“The backpack made Jenna upset? Why?”

“WELL, it wasn’t the backpack that made her upset, really; it was something that Adam had drawn on it. Jenna’s Jewish, and that’s why she was upset” she added.

That’s when I knew that this was a good story.

After a bit of complicated description involving “bendy, leggy things sticking out,” Bean had managed to get out that Adam had drawn a swastika on his bag. She then told me that she’d tried to explain to Adam why that was a bad thing to have on his bag and she asked him to erase it (it seems the symbol was done in pencil on the nylon of the bag), but he wouldn’t listen to her. Seeing that her friend was truly uncomfortable about this, Bean did what we’ve taught her to do – when she finds herself in a situation she can’t handle on her own, she goes to a trusted grown-up for help.

Bean took her teacher aside (“I didn’t tattle,” she said) and explained what was going on. Mrs. F., being the smart and kind woman that she is, used this situation as a lovely teaching opportunity. She explained to the kids that the symbol that Adam had drawn on his bag means something bad to a lot of people and, though she didn’t get into the details (couldn’t, really – it’s not on the third grade curriculum and she’d likely be inviting all KINDS of hell from parents if she snuck it in), she did explain that it was an inappropriate thing to have as a decoration on a backpack and insisted that Adam erase it.

I spoke to Mrs. F. later and she explained that the boy came upon this innocently – they’d been doing a unit of geography and the students were assigned a country to do a bit of research on. Adam drew Germany from the proverbial hat, saw the symbol in an encyclopedia entry, and thought it “looked cool;” he had no concept of the symbol or the bastardized meaning the Nazis had given it. Mrs. F. explained that it was an offensive symbol to a lot of people, and left it at that.

I, however, did not. Bean and Punkin’ and I had a long and productive conversation in the car about what that symbol really means. Once we got started, they were able to tell me, in 9 and 11 year old terms, what the Shoah was and why EVERYONE should be offended by that symbol. Their education about this era is lacking – something which I intend to remedy – but I was pleased that they got what they did.

What pleased me more, though, was Beanie’s willingness to stand up for her friend. Even though the swastika didn’t offend her – at least, not at the time – she empathized with her friend’s genuine discomfort, even if she didn’t truly understand it. I’m proud of her for doing that, and pleased that I’m raising her in an environment that encourages that kind of behavior.

THAT’S why I’m attending this fellowship.

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Filed under admiration, celebration, concerns, crossover, doing my duty, general kid stuff, Holocaust Study and Outreach, Home and Family, kid cuteness, learning, Parenting, politics, Questions, ruminating, social issues, strange but true, teaching

Come to My Kitchen

I’ve opened a new blog site.  Come on over, and bring your appetite!

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Filed under cooking, crossover