Friday, March 30, 2012

Blessed are those with a persecution complex? - Guest Voices - The Washington Post

Blessed are those with a persecution complex? - Guest Voices - The Washington Post:

The kicker:

I am sorry to dash anyone’s hopes, but being required to honor a contract you have voluntarily entered into is not persecution. Being required to abide by your employer’s dress code and other rules is not persecution. Being required to carry out the job you are paid to do is not persecution. Not being exempted from laws that apply to everyone else too is not persecution. Not even if you are religious, and no matter how much you had set your heart on the promised heavenly reward.
These cases are the very opposite of persecution: they are self-serving, self-aggrandizing demands for special treatment. More seriously, they are an insult to Christians around the world for whom the word persecution means something altogether more deadly.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What are we educating for?

I've been thinking lately that what we need kids to learn is not facts or theories but skills. There is some foundation knowledge that may remain relevant long after graduation, but it will be far more important for the kids to be

  • flexible, questioning, and able to change their understanding of what is true,
  • able to learn new skills and material, and
  • interested in the world.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Life imitates Monty Python

Geoff Pullum, one of my professors from when I was in grad school in linguistics, posted a blog entry over at Language Log talking about how some high schools in the UK seem to be having their students who are native speakers of a non-English language take the proficiency exam for their native language in order to pad the high schools' average scores for GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exam scores.

I won't take a position here on the ethics of the practice, but I was reminded of this sketch from Monty Python's flying circus. Note, however, that no-one is claiming that the high schools are having native French speakers (for example) take classes where they endure constructing sentences on the pattern of la plume de ma tante ... (modify appropriately for other languages).

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Newts are slippery

Newt Gingrich's current persona reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis's The abolition of man:

No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that a gentleman does not cheat, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Faith is not something we want to encourage

If faith is a clinging to a belief in spite of the fact that the evidence is overwhelmingly against it and the fact that the evidence is extensive, broad, and has been developed over a long time, then yes, faith is a bad thing.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Family values

This one wasn't quite as ironic as it could have been, but...

I saw a car today with several anti-choice bumper stickers and a "Newt 2012" sticker. No irony in that, but the flavor of the anti-choice stickers (for example, "adoption, not abortion") made me think the car's owner probably describes themself as pro-family.

And there's the irony of their being for Newt.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Utah governor vetoes bill to curb sex education in schools | Reuters

Utah governor vetoes bill to curb sex education in schools | Reuters


The proponents of the bill think that parents do a better job of teaching sex-ed than the schools do. What makes me think that these same people also think that the schools should be pushing religion?

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Sunday, March 18, 2012


I set this blog up a year and a half ago with the idea of sharing my thoughts on Big Ideas™ in classification and taxonomy.

That goal was a bit too ambitious for me to get started with, so I've scaled back. I'll deal with ideas at a comfortable level for me (big, small, or Goldilocks), and my posts will usually be brief. I'm not sure that there's a difference between aphorisms and sound-bites, but one of them seems to be how I think.