Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can fish climb trees?

What does it mean to be intelligent? Albert Einstein’s quote makes it drastically clear that when we judge people based on specific qualifications only judging one aspect of intelligence, we cannot truly say who is or is not a genius. Fish cannot climb trees. Well, maybe there are a couple that do--the Leaping Benny and the Mud-skipper, and perhaps an intrepid catfish or two--but on the whole, fish out of water are the epitome of, well, a fish out of water. So if we humans can understand the truth in Einstein’s quote, why do we insist on using one type of test to determine intelligence when talking about people? Surely there are as many types of intelligence as there are (pardon my pun) fish in the sea; how can we say this person is a genius because he passes some arbitrary IQ test while another person is below average because he doesn't?

I've been a high school teacher for most of my adult life, and in that time I have never met a student who didn't excel at something, even if some of those students did not excel in my content area. I have had students who can take a block of wood and turn it into something amazing like a recipe box or a sculpture or a pen but who cannot analyze a poem to save their lives. I have had other students who can calculate the tangent of a triangle without blinking, but if given an essay prompt can hardly put three words on a page.

Give this student an engine to take apart and put together and she can do it with ease. Give her a vocabulary quiz and she fails miserably. Give this other student a book report, and he will return it with annotations; but ask him to make popcorn, and he will burn it every time. Artists, musicians, mechanics, chefs, doctors, accountants, farmers, businessmen--all of these people have scholastic areas they achieve in and those they do not. Why is it, then, that we insist on testing them all the same way? While I would not say we should get rid of testing--everyone should learn the basics--we should realize that tests are just one source of information about a person and his or her intelligence. I understand, theoretically, the reason we as a nation are so concerned about our test scores compared to those of other nations. No one wants to be below standard or considered lower than others.

However, the idea of school shouldn't be to turn out a bunch of people who can do well on a standardized test. It should be turning out people who have an idea of where their passions lay and the wherewithal to begin that journey to get there. I wish that we, as a nation and a world, would truly understand the sentiment of Einstein’s quote. Heck, I wish I would--never mind all the rest. If I could truly see the forest for the trees, maybe I would figure out what kinds of tests I can give my kids to show what they’re really good at--and then encourage them in those areas. Then, if I do find a fish that can climb trees, that’s a bonus.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ride for Hailey

I was taking a Sunday nap today.  Covers up to my ears, pillows surrounding me, music playing softly in the background.  I was on my way to dreamland when I was awakened by the sound of growling engines.  At first I lay in bed, wondering what on earth was happening.  Was a giant plane flying too low?  Was someone in my neighborhood having some strange car rally?  And then I remembered a sign I saw yesterday when I was out driving on Scenic, right by the American Legion.  The sign was about a bike ride for Hailey.

Springfield has been in the news for various reasons, both good and bad, recently, and the bad reason of course is the kidnaping and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens this past week.  The atrocities humans perpetrate against each other is appalling and upsetting.  Why a person would do such a thing shows us that evil is actively walking among us.  There will be (and already has been) a lot of speculation about his motives or the whys and wherefores of police action or any number of other hard-to-answer questions.... I am not able nor qualified to speak on any of those topics; I don't know the man or his background or his mindset, and I am not 'in the know' about police standard operating procedures except for what I see on TV shows.

What I do know is that we have the choice to choose good over evil.  There has been an outpouring of love for the Owens family from all over this town (and from all over, from what I've seen on the news and the internet).  Porch lights have been turned on, purple and pink suddenly became the colors for everyone to wear, thousands more than expected showed up at a vigil to celebrate a life snuffed out too early.  And today, a drove or horde or hoon of motorcyclists wrapped purple or pink ribbons around their leathers and handlebars to show their support and raise money to help the family.

Back to the interruption of my nap.  Now, I live on the east side of Springfield, and my backyard is Hwy 65.  I hear highway noise all the time, and I usually don't really notice it because it's become the "white background noise" of my home.  It's a constant sound.  But the growling of thousands of motorcycles is no "white noise."  In fact, I almost felt as if my house vibrated with the sound.  As I realized what I was hearing, I felt I had to go to the window to, like the father in the Christmas poem, "see what was the matter."  What, to my wondering eyes...big grin, the matter was was motorcycles.  No miniature sleigh and reindeer...nope.  Big, beautiful, shiny, loud machines roaring with life and sound and fury.  It was amazing.  And the drivers of the cars seemed to know what was going on, too, for they slowed down, rolled their windows down, and waved (and not the one-fingered salute, either, that sometimes drivers--not me--give to motorcyclists as they roar past).  They honked, too, causing a cacophony of sound that somehow became beautiful and moving.

Here is a link to a news story about the Ride for Hailey.

So, in the wake of a horrible tragedy, we find that people come together to show love and hope and support.  And, despite the disruption to my nap, I felt peace and rest knowing that where evil abounds, grace and love abound much more (Romans 5:20).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An island greeting...

No man is an island, entire of itself.
Each man is part of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod of earth fall off into the sea,
Europe is the less, as much as if
A promontory were, as much as if
A Manor of thy friends or thine own were.

Every man’s death diminishes me
Because I am involved in mankind;
Therefore, never send to know
For whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

from Meditation XVII by John Donne (1571-1631)

No one is completely alone. We are all integral to someone else. Each of us is a sister, daughter, wife, mother, niece, aunt, brother, son, husband, father, nephew, uncle, grandchild, and/or friend to someone. No one comes into the world with no connections. Because of that, we, each of us, touch other’s lives in some way. We each have the grand opportunity, the weight of glory (as CS Lewis calls it), to help each person we come into contact with toward light or darkness. How that light or darkness will play out in someone’s life, we may never know, but we all have that glorious burden to bear.

John Donne reminds us about this divine calling in his Meditation XVII. A clump of dirt falling into the ocean makes the nation that much smaller. A grain of obsidian sand pulled from the beach of Hawaii--or that pristine white sand granule from Florida washing into the Gulf--causes all of America to shrink. Donne says that even a bit of earth that falls into the rolling blue lessens the country from which it falls.

That grain of sand, that person we lose thanks to whatever tide goes rolling out, is part of my continent. I am diminished. I am affected because "I am involved in mankind." Therefore I must look to those people in my life whom I know I have the opportunity to impact. Am I doing enough to keep erosion from occurring? Am I sharing light or darkness? Am I listening and reacting to the tolling of the bells that ring? I hope so.

Several iron bells rang out that touched me personally this week. I am sure that any number of bells tolled throughout the nation and world, and we were all affected by the resounding of those iron bells in our lives. Our diminished selves may be tempted to retreat; I need to remember that it is at these times, especially, that I need to look to friends and family whose love can help bring light instead of darkness. Their warm greetings help soothe the sadness that sudden loss brings.

Hawaii's greeting of "Aloha" which means hello and goodbye is perhaps that perfect phrase at times like this, when we must say goodbye to those whose bell has rung while at the same time welcoming our friends and family into holiday homes. Blessings and love to all those of us who have heard the bells ring this week; also, welcome and good cheer to those who will be ringing doorbells for Christmas. So, "Aloha" dear hearts.

RIP MM and BM 12/16/2013