As a class assignment for a graduate American history course I am taking along with 48 other educators through the University of South Dakota this year, we are reading “Arc of Justice” by Kevin Boyle. In it, Boyle tells the story of the “Great Migration” of large numbers of blacks from the South to the North during the first decades of the 20th century. That trek was fraught with prejudice, discrimination and violence, proving that racism was not an institution peculiar to the South.
Within the last few weeks, two major bodies of work emanated from Washington, D.C. (Three, if you count the health-care bill.) The first was the release of the new, national educational standards in English and mathematics. In fact, these were released some time ago but they finally reached the state level for local input.
In my office, atop overflowing bookshelves, sit nine photographs of people in my family who went before me in education. Included among them are my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my aunt, all of whom were teachers and one even a county superintendent.
It’s not a “perfect” storm per se, but you’d have a hard time convincing several dozen school superintendents of that this last week. Just as the state Legislature grows ever closer to giving schools as much as 1.2 percent and as little as a great big goose egg, the Board of Directors of the South Dakota High School Activities Association announces they will be sanctioning soccer as a new school sport.
While I realize that spring does not arrive until March 20, according to the calendar this year, and while I also realize that even March 20 does not guarantee more temperate weather — we have missed school due to blizzards as late as the last week of April — my internal season clock always tells me that March 1 is spring. No matter how much evidence I see to the contrary during any given year, the little robin in my head announces to me on March 1 that spring has arrived. (Apparently this year, spring will be heralded by gargantuan piles of snow.)
Yes, I am fully aware that it really doesn’t matter whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not, that it’s just a bunch of silly folk lore. And even if it did mean something out East, it wouldn’t work in South Dakota. If we only get six more weeks of winter after Feb. 2, we count ourselves fortunate.
Among both theologians and philosophers alike, there is an age-old conversation about the nature of humanity. It can be summed up as a debate over whether we are fallen angels or redeemed demons. In more practical terms, it is an argument about whether people naturally act honestly, being dishonest and vile only when a fallen world trains or tempts us in that direction, or naturally cheat, steal and swindle unless given the proper incentives not to do so.
One of the things I truly enjoy about the first few weeks of school after Christmas break — and no, I am not referring to snow, which I detest more and more as my childhood memories disappear into that fog that comes to all people “of a certain age” — is the mail at school. Typically, I am not a big fan of the mail as it typically comes with little I would ever want to receive. The typical batch includes a blizzard of advertisements, news of some innovative and even more onerous federal regulation, and, of course, some state and federal report which must be filed within the next 30 days and which I truly loathe especially if I can’t foist it off on someone else in the district which, I have to admit, is usually how it works.
Opinion: Praising with meaning: In a world full of undeserved awards, how can we show true appreciation for achievement?
When I was a first grader in Miss Johnson’s classroom at Cleveland Elementary, I have to admit that I was what they now call a “teacher pleaser.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t really cover it, but since I’m loathe to use the various terms students today would have assigned me then, I’ll have to go with a few of my own: toady, sycophant, and, my personal favorite, lickspittle.
Much is being made in some circles these days of the apparent prediction of the end of the world in December of 2012 by ancient Mayan astronomers and chronologists. Some of the modern-day true believers hedge their bets a bit, arguing only for some sort of cataclysmic social upheaval but either way, they argue, don’t bother buying fragile Christmas presents for anybody that year.
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