Phrases worth forgetting

Mrs. Knox, my high school English teacher, must be tossing and turning in her grave. Have you ever really listened to some of the phrases used in public speaking? There were only a few things she was really adamant about. A student could get an F on a paper, for instance, for using the phrase “a lot of” instead of something more specific, like “many” or “4,278,522.”

Continue reading Phrases worth forgetting

Myth and reality

Turn right at the stop. If you're in the creek, you missed it.We humans, I’ve discovered through many years of observation, are complicated.

We like, for instance, the story of Romeo and Juliet, two young (some say about 15-year-old) lovers who got together in spite of their parents feud. Or maybe at least partially because of it; youth often does things just because the elders forbid it.

Continue reading Myth and reality

Corrections and other New Year’s resolutions

Homework assignment: Write on a yellow pad of lined paper, 1,000 times, “I will not reverse the roles of Robert Oppenheimer and Wernher von Braun.”

I do not know why I got their names and roles backward, but when I wrote about my last motorcycle ride of the year, to Fort Ritchie with a friend, I erred. An astute reader wrote to bring it to my attention, and it’s a serious enough error that it deserves correcting.

Continue reading Corrections and other New Year’s resolutions

Burning Bridges

Bridges of booksLast month, a Jefferson County, Colorado school board proposed modifying its Advanced Placement U.S. History course. “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” the proposal stated. The new requirements would “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.”

[pullquote]“Stories mean more when they are in the words of real people,”[/pullquote]
Civil disobedience, it appears, would not be part of the curriculum.

Continue reading Burning Bridges

Hey, I turned out OK! Not!

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked his wife unconscious in an elevator, and from the way the case was handled one might easily think his major offense was doing it where a camera would catch him at it.

For messing up his girlfriend, Rice got a two-game suspension. A new NFL policy would get a four-game suspension for a player caught messing himself up with human growth hormones.

Continue reading Hey, I turned out OK! Not!

There are more worlds than revealed in history textbooks

A favorite tee-shirt of mine shows four Native Americans prepared for battle. Around the image are the words, “Homeland Security / Fighting terrorism since 1492.” I’m always amazed when people don’t get the message.

“In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” And so began a dedicated effort by predominantly white Europeans to erase cultures which had existed for at least centuries in the “new” world.

Continue reading There are more worlds than revealed in history textbooks

Prevention and preparedness: The pillars of SAAFE-T

Staci's thumbnailGuest column by Staci L. George

Be proactive, not simply reactive.

That is the idea that ignited Todd Rosenthal’s establishment of SAAFE-T – an acronym for Situational Awareness & Assailant Force Evasion Training. It was founded in February 2013 and is based in Annapolis.

Continue reading Prevention and preparedness: The pillars of SAAFE-T

Minority rule (or, Election Day is Nov. 5)

Download link at end of this column.A few years ago, we turned out a large portion of the wastrels in the state legislature. We The People were nearly uniformly unhappy with lawmakers who had, in the dark of night, given themselves a payraise.

[pullquote]Unfortunately for the majority that does not vote, we too often have government by minority rule.[/pullquote]

In the district of my home, our representative seemed to have a different excuse for each audience. He voted for it because he couldn’t stop it, he said. Besides, judges deserved a long-overdue payraise. He deserved a raise to pay for his lawyering education which, he said – after 12 years of being, by his own admission, essentially legislatively useless – would make him more effective representative of his district.

Continue reading Minority rule (or, Election Day is Nov. 5)

Discovering dinosaurs, and other life forms

What big teeth you have.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/25/2013)

The three-year-old took his dad and me to the zoo this week. The little guy is a chick magnet. Everywhere we went, he was so happy playing with dad, laughing and grinning, that young ladies 100 yards away were looking at him and smiling. Which caused them to look at me and smile because they knew I was with Peter, and Peter’s an obviously really cool little guy.

[pullquote]There’s something really great about watching a youngster discover new things, even – maybe especially – when he has no real idea what he has discovered.[/pullquote]

First it was a ride on the Metro to Washington, then lunch outside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Peter loves dinosaurs, and he knows which skull is the Triceratops and which the T. Rex. He found a Pterodactyl, which he properly identified as a bird, and oohed over the monsters behind the glass of a miniature Jurassic Park.

Continue reading Discovering dinosaurs, and other life forms

Lack of GED, diploma or degree not necessarily indicator of school’s failure

Some valuable jobs, e.g. heavy equipment operators, do not require college education.(First published in the Rock the Capital, 6/22/2012)

I graduated from Eighth Grade at Roosevelt Grammar School in 1961.

[pullquote]…we expect that all young people can learn all things, and should all go to college – or at least stick it out through high school. Hogwash![/pullquote]

When I was young, Eighth Grade graduation marked the limit of many students’ academic career. I was raised in rural Maine, where young people helped their families on the farm, and the school calendar was written around planting and harvest schedules, and the fall agricultural fair.

Continue reading Lack of GED, diploma or degree not necessarily indicator of school’s failure

Idea: kids pick up lunch on the way to school

A few remaining peppers hang ripening on the vine.(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/18/2013)

It’s nearly 7 a.m. The sun soon will come into view. Not long ago, I would sat on the back porch to read. Now I am glad the electronic paper on which I write has its own illumination.

[pullquote]“Seven out of 10 people will live in a city by 2050,” Meaghan Parker, writer/editor at the Woodrow Wilson Center.[/pullquote]

A school bus passes my home, right on time. It will stop in a hundred yards or so to pick up several students and carry them to brick-walled institutions of learning. Would that it take them to a forest or a garden. I live in a county where agriculture is one of the two main industries, so a smaller percentage of our kids than, say, Baltimore’s or New York’s, think food comes from a Food Lion, but even a few are too many.

The stream beside our back porch looks and sounds cooler these days. The Forest of Brown-eyed Susans and Echinacea has withered, as have the clumps of Hostas, their tall purple bell-bearing stalks nearly completely bereft of their autumn royalty.

Continue reading Idea: kids pick up lunch on the way to school

Ode to teachers (including parents)

Published in the Gettysburg Times, 8/23/2013)

I’m proud of my daughter. And of her sister, which is how the former introduced me to the latter, a young woman about to become, in those early college days, a BFF. Cat’s in South Carolina now, her “sister” in Georgia. One has this year joined her school’s administrative ranks, the other is adding certifications for Special Education students.

Teachers and parents have the most important jobs in any culture. They are the ones who pass on the lore of the tribe and teach us how to mingle with our fellow planetary inhabitants. Continue reading Ode to teachers (including parents)

On tearing down mountains and other barriers

Even parts of mountains show effects of Pangea(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 6/7/2013)

A college sociology professor told me the length of human experience is about 50 years. Any longer than that is “the way it’s always been.”

One might argue human experience has been shortening in recent years; we can hear that concept illustrated on the evening news nearly every night, as the latest storm or political catastrophe is declared the worst since time began. Consider that four Americans died in an attack on Benghazi, making it “one of the worst incidents that I can recall,” according former Vice President Dick Cheney. Continue reading On tearing down mountains and other barriers

Oh! to be a robin at the window

My first grandchild takes seat after receiving H.S. diploma(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 5/17/2013)

The backyard this year is full of birds, more species at one time than I remember. They build nests, lay eggs that turn into young birds, and one day the young are gone. I wonder whether the mom and dad birds find themselves stretched between “get out and make a world” and “there’s still so much you need to learn.”

When our son graduated high school in 1991, he was already 18. He left our home for a few weeks, and came back, and stayed long enough for us to have a few skirmishes about whose castle is this, anyway, now the junior male resident was officially an adult.

One afternoon he was preparing to wash clothes, Continue reading Oh! to be a robin at the window

How to end the war in Afghanistan

 A cannon accents rubble from the demolished cyclorama, grim reminder of the demolished lives.(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 5/10/2013)

“Thirty-five million deaths leave an empty place at only one family table.” – News commentator Eric Sevareid, (1912-1992) in a radio essay on the 25th anniversary of the start of World War Two.

With less than one percent of our warrior-age offspring actually in the military force, the odds greatly favor that a picture on the evening news is all most of us will know about someone who has died or been wounded in battle.

It is easy to think the war in Afghanistan, virtual static beneath whatever car crash or blustery foreign leader takes top billing each night, has been going on a very long time. An editor for ABC World News declared the war in Afghanistan “the longest war in our nation’s history, surpassing the conflict in Vietnam.” That was June 2010. Let’s do the math. Continue reading How to end the war in Afghanistan

From genes to sex: The many guises of human trafficking

As I write this, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments about whether a company can own a human gene. It’s not quite as sexy a topic as same-sex marriage, so we’ll likely not hear much about it during the day or on the evening news, but it strikes me as one of the most important cases SCOTUS will decide this year.

A friend wrote on Facebook the other night her extreme displeasure with human trafficking. In the context of the article to which she linked, she was talking about sex trafficking – prostitution, we used to call it, but that word has come to apply to so many other things, and trafficking is an uglier word when applied to buying and selling human resources.

Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Now you see it, now it’s gone

Gettysburg Cyclorama partially demolished.(Originally published in Gettysburg Times, March 15, 2013)

Wednesday, as I write these words, the Cyclorama – the circular enclosure that once housed a 359-foot wrap-around panoramic painting of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg – is nearly demolished. Housed in a circular building, the artwork created by French artist Paul Philippoteaux in the late 1800s, offered viewers a virtual feeling of the famous battle. (Click the pix for larger views before and after.)

The painting, which had lived in the distinctive building since 1962, has been restored and, in 2008, moved to a new home in the new Gettysburg National Military Park visitor center in 2008.Pile of rubble marks the demolished Cyclorama.

Continue reading Now you see it, now it’s gone

More of what joins us, please

Last weekend (Feb. 24), much was made of Danica Patrick becoming the first woman to start the Daytona 500 from the pole position. Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag in first place; and if Danica hadn’t  been a woman, few among us would have noticed she even finished.

I met many voters in 2008 who voted for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. Some even admitted that had she been a man with the same track record, they’d have looked elsewhere.

Even John McCain, once a serious contender for President of the United States, found for a running mate Continue reading More of what joins us, please

Schools good at data collection, but is that really their purpose?

We should have learned by now that by the time a child now entering kindergarten grows up and enters the workforce, most of the jobs now available will have disappeared. In spite of numerous changes to the school system and teaching methods, and although students in many classrooms may sit in a variety of physical patterns, all students still must submit to regimentation, now comprising standard exams, purportedly – because all students are, we are told, capable of learning equally well – to prove which teachers are failing their duties to fill their students with state-prescribed knowledge.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

Judge’s decision could have broad consequences for public Right to Know

Author's pen seeks to expose government secrecyA Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, judge may soon have a say in whether citizens have a right to know what decisions are made when their elected officials gather to make them. Currently, some gatherings of elected officials are claiming to be protected from the state’s Right to Know Law. A decision either way could affect other agencies, from school boards to economic development corporations.

Last July, a Bloomsburg-based author asked the PA State Association of Township Supervisors for information about its lobbying efforts as the legislature formulated a law to, purportedly, regulate the controversial Marcellus Shale industry. Continue reading Judge’s decision could have broad consequences for public Right to Know