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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teach Your Children*

I'm taking two classes again this semester--Digital Libraries and Bibliography of the Sciences--and they're each challenging in different ways. In the case of Digital Libraries, it involves material that might not flummox a 25-year-old recent college graduate, who had far more exposure to computers in their lives than I have in mine, but is definitely making me play catch-up.  I'll talk about this at some point, but today's bug under my saddle is the Bibliography class.  Nothing against the professor--he's a guest professor from Carnegie Mellon who seems to have a great knack for asking the right questions--and today's are real doozies.

I just finished reading ten articles (!!!) between the two classes--six for Science, mostly about the relationship between libraries and child and young adult patron's needs in the Science area--from toddlers to twelfth graders.  He posed the questions on one of the discussion  boards: 

1)My first question would be ... what other information exists on high quality science literature? Surely I haven't unburied all there is to be had.

2) Did you notice that engineering never seems to be the topic of children's books? Isn't it cool enough? Perhaps nobody has the knack of introducing it to children yet?

Perhaps the answer is found in the question itself.  It assumes that children should be introduced to science by reading about it first, rather than experiencing it. I'd like to (respectfully) toss that idea out with the trash. 

I have a son who's in Boy Scouts--Life Rank--one 50-mile bike ride and a service project away from Eagle.  God, I'm so proud of him.  He DOES possess that Calvin-like (Calvin and Hobbes, that is) evil 6-year-old persona, though, as evidenced by his reaction (he was 12 at the time) when I made the mistake of telling him about the Missouri University of Science and Technology summer explosives camp***.  You read that right.  The kids learn all about explosives (dynamite, primacord, C4, TNT, gunpowder, etc.), and the end of the camp is highlighted with a fireworks show that the campers create  themselves.**  He got the same look that Calvin gets when he visits the dinosaurs in the museum--and I smile when I think about not only Calvin's imagination, but my son's (and I suspect a LOT of other people's sons). But there is a risk involved in expanding the boundaries of the imagination. In the words of Jeff Foxworthy, "Famous last words--"HEY GUYS, WATCH THIS!".

A good story, well told, can be captivating.  But nothing beats first-person experience.

*--Graham Nash (performed with Crosby, Stills, and Nash), No Nukes, 1980.
**--To those of you wondering about why a school out in the middle of Missouri would have such a thing, it would be helpful for you to know that the Missouri University of Science and Technology, which used to be called the University of Missouri-Rolla, was originally called the Missouri School of Mines.  Mines make extensive use of dynamite, TNT, explosives, etc. so this camp would be a natural extension of their work (albeit a unique one)
*** Here's the link, just in case you think I'm kidding:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Run for the Roses, part 1*

Two recent decisions--one by the International Olympic Committee and one by the US Department of Justice--makes me wonder about what's happened to sports.

First,  another monumentally stupid IOC decision.
To whit:

How can they DO this?

They saved rhythmic gymnastics, badminton and golf, yachting, equestrian events, and ping pong.  What's next, duplicate bridge? Scrabble, for God's sake (don't get me started on the hierarchy in [i]that[/i] game)?
Reasons they gave included ticket sales (yeah, 97% sold out in London is a real failure)number of countries involved (71 for wrestling, 34 for equestrian) and tv coverage.  Really? Ask any American sports fan whose interests don't include swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, or any of the women's sports about the quality of NBC's coverage for the Winter OR Summer games.  If they're like me, you'll get an earful. I know that they're gone, but give me Howard Cosell and Jim McKay and ABC any day over these clowns.

It was widely thought that the Modern Pentathlon, a melange of shooting, riding, swimming, and I'm not sure what else was on the chopping block, but one of the current members of the IOC, the son of Juan Antonio Samaranch, lobbied to keep it and in the end wrestling got the heave-ho.  Just like that.

I want you to think and think hard about all the kids you know who are involved in youth sports of any kind, especially one where the Olympics are held up as the highest standard of their sport.  All those wrestling coaches get to go back to all those kids and explain how a bunch of overstuffed high-priced suits are destroying their dreams.  You may not have a youth wrestling program where you are but just apply it to football or soccer or volleyball, take your pick. Softball and baseball already got the IOC shaft, and now wrestling is next.

If you support youth wrestling, high school, college, whatever level, whether you have kids in it or not, I strongly urge you to do whatever you can to help the idiots at the IOC see the light.  Wrestling has been part of the Olympics since the outset.  There are too many kids who will be hurt by this outrageous action and we mustn't let another day pass without doing something.  If you're in a state where wrestling is big (at least it is in Pennsylvania where I live), go to a meet (state tournaments are going on right now), volunteer, write letters, make phone calls, emails, do it today!

*--Dan Fogelberg, The Innocent Age, 1981.

I'll get into the DOJ nonsense later.
Bronx Cheers for the IOC.
Cheers for all my brother wrestlers and their parents, siblings, teammates, opponents, and coaches and their staffs, and yes, even the guy scrubbing the mats.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Be Prepared*

For some people, the words of Anne Frank say it best: "I am a bundle of contradictions".  On the surface, that may appear to be true of a lot of people. In my case, people may say that regarding a whole host of opinions that I've given over the years.  I prefer to think of the immortal Ralph Waldo Emerson and "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" when thinking politically.  I don't subscribe to everything in the GOP Talking Points Manual** but for many in the liberal camp, to believe one conservative point is to believe them all (and I KNOW it works both ways, especially on the pro-life issue.  Don't call it pro-choice--the baby doesn't GET a choice). And the Libertarians wonder why they don't make any headway.

So I think I talked previously about my work with my son's Boy Scout troop (We call it Boy Scouts here in the United States.  The USA is the only country where Scouting isn't co-ed). On Monday, had a statement regarding an issue that has been hotly contentious for many years.  In it they acknowledged that the national organization is considering local options on whether gay Scouts and leaders may be active members.  It would be up to the chartering organizations to determine standards for membership/leadership.

UPDATE:  It's Wednesday and National is meeting this morning on this very issue.  It'll be interesting to see how this goes.  There are more than a few who are steadfastly clinging to the way things were and are, but I think in the end that it will be left up to the local chartering organizations, which will lead to the organization admitting anyone with a pulse after hundreds of lawsuits are filed.  Personally, I think that the organization is missing the boat.  There are thousands of worthy men out there who could help boys in myriad ways whose only offense is not being straight.  Gonna make for one heck of a parent meeting.

UPDATE 2:  It's Tuesday the 12th and the BSA decided to table their decision pending a national board meeting in May.  Hope people can wait that long--or can be civil enough to allow Scouting to hash this out.

*--Tom Lehrer, Songs by Tom Lehrer, 1953.
**--published by Pagliacci Press, 4/1/2012 (note the date)