Not only do I love the quest, but I’m in love with the matching deep blue sunglasses. Questing is wonderful, but so it matching!
Here we go! Leaving Chester Castle
We ride at dawn! Well, not quite. But my Welsh Castle Quest got off to a great start today, and knowing that I left Chester Castle at exactly the same time, and walked in the same direction as Edward 1st and his army did in 1277 made it all the more special.
We departed the castle and, just as Edward did (as you’ll see tomorrow) advanced out of the city towards the Dee estuary. Our walk took us along the tidal River Dee on the charming Wales Coastal Path, and as we left Chester behind and progressed towards Wales the cries of seagulls and the salty air became stronger with the rising call of the sea.
Looking along the River Dee to those foreboding Welsh hills beyond
Soon we reached the Welsh/English border, marked by two tall stones straddling the path, and so we…
Watching the Democratic riots (aka “debates”) the other night, I was surprised that Biden didn’t tell the real truth about busing. Because this is a subject with which we are intimately familiar here. Garry covered Boston’s busing crises and has an Emmy for his work. He interviewed white families, black families, every family. He interviewed politicians, teachers, and the kids who got bused.
I think by the time he was done with the story, he had interviewed almost everyone in Boston. Everyone had an opinion, but the most pointed ones were from the families who were directly affected by busing and the kids who were bused.
Because you see, the outcome has been clear for years: BUSING DIDN’T WORK.
Educators and other organizations have done study-after-study about it. It did not improve race relations or education. It absolutely failed. However well-intentioned the idea, busing kids long distances to schools which did not welcome the students and where they would not make friends or get a better education didn’t solve any problems. It probably created new ones.
The real issue?
We need to invest in our schools. Money. Schools need money. Teachers need salaries. Schools need better textbooks and materials. Laboratories, computers. It’s not about better cafeterias and larger playing fields.
It’s about better learning.
Moving kids of different races, so you can say you have somehow achieved diversity, is nonsense. I’m surprised Biden didn’t bother to point it out. For that matter, I’m shocked that Kamala didn’t point it out either. I’m sure she knows as well as we do. Should Biden have supported busing despite not believing in it? Because it was the currently “right thing to do”?
I think not, but then again — I’m not a follower of trends or fads, no matter how well-meant.
Our school issues — local and national — are ruined by lack of funding. By an unwillingness of states, towns, and the federal government to spend enough money to make our schools what they ought to be. To pay teachers what they are worth. To make teaching an attractive profession.
Whenever a government runs short of money, the first thing they cut is education. They refuse to buy quality textbooks or even school supplies. The result is a nation full of stupid, ignorant people. Maybe some of them would have been stupid and ignorant anyway, but I’m sure the lack of education didn’t help.
It’s time to start questioning the idea that diversity automatically improves education and thus physically moving children from one school to another is in itself solving some educational problem. It isn’t.
In effect, what happened is anyone who could afford it sent their children to private schools. Since both sets of schools involved in Boston busing were in poor neighborhoods — no accident — the result was non-education for everyone.
If we don’t invest in education, we’ll never have educated students of any color. Bad schools produce poor education. If schools are sufficiently bad, the result is uneducated students.
We talk a good game per education in the U.S., but we don’t live it. We don’t contribute to it. So while we worry about college debt, how about we put a little of that concern into worrying about teaching kids to read and understand what they are reading? Teach them some real history, not the crap they get in their old, out-of-date (and probably never accurate even when they were new) textbooks.
I read a fascinating article from Today, on Facebook. It was written by Meghan Holohan on March 29, 2019, and is titled “ ‘Adulting’ Class at Kentucky high school teaches crucial life skills.”
What a great concept! I’ve always thought high schools and colleges should offer life skills classes so kids aren’t left totally unprepared when they move into adulthood (that is if their parents don’t prepare them, which most don’t).
In the Kentucky school, ‘Adulting’ seminars were offered and the response was overwhelming and positive. Parents were as thrilled as the kids when the project started blowing up on the internet. Seniors could choose three out of eleven workshops to attend with the goal of gaining more general knowledge and specific skills needed to help them navigate their lives after high school.
The classes offered were awesome and totally practical. Some of them were: Dorm Room Cooking, How To Interact With the Police (I’m assuming it’s an inner city school), Healthy Relationships and Boundaries, It’s Money, Baby, i.e. Personal Finance, Writing a Resume and Cover Letter, Filling out an Application, Basics of Checking and Savings and When you Need to See A Doctor.
The first class to fill up was dorm room cooking. The Police were the second most popular and the third was Healthy Relationships. Apparently, a lot of young girls were not sure how and when to set boundaries in a relationship and what you should and should not expect — or accept — in a relationship. If you don’t see good relationships in your life, I guess you need to be taught what a good one looks like and how to get it. Very sad.
This school’s adulting classes are hopefully the start of a new trend. I looked online and found an adulting class for millennials that teaches them ‘survival’ skills like monthly budgeting and how to open a wine bottle with a cork. A library in Oregon offers “Adulting 101: Basic How-To’s for ages 16-25.”
Apparently, neither mainstream schools or parents are preparing kids to take on the world beyond home and high school.
I’ve read several conflicting explanations for why kids today seem so clueless when it comes to basic adulthood skills. Some blame it on the fact that so many kids continue to live at home through their 20’s, and even later. But one article pointed out that in the 1940s, people lived at home in even larger numbers and for even longer periods than recent generations. But those kids also did chores and were given adult responsibilities while at home, so making it in the real world was not a problem for them when the time came.
That points to late 20th-century parenting as the problem.
One author argues that both parents usually have to work crazy hours just to provide good lives for their families, so no one has time to teach life skills to their kids. Another author blames helicopter or snowplow parents who treat their kids like delicate, pampered snowflakes, do everything for them and expect nothing from them.
Another school of thought blames high schools, which used to teach skills like cooking, shop, and bookkeeping but now don’t. My husband had a great home economics class and learned how to cook as a teenager. He was the only boy in a class full of girls! Win, win!
Another author argues that every generation of young adults is equally ignorant of life skills and that most people learn them in the field, as adults. I had never cooked a thing until I reached law school and had my first apartment. Many kids don’t have their own checkbooks when they live with their parents and so they don’t learn how to manage one until they are living and working on their own.
I’m not sure which theory I believe, but I agree with the person who said that whatever the root causes of their egregious lack of ‘adult’ knowledge, the kids today should be commended for trying to learn what they realize they don’t know.
Hopefully, there will be a big spike in enrollment in the Adulting School that has opened, which offers classes in cooking, sewing, and basic conflict resolution. I know some adults who could use those classes. I know many career women who don’t know the first thing about cooking, except ordering out. I still can’t balance a checkbook.
Perhaps you did not know we have a National Poetry month. It has been celebrated each year since 1996. It is a way to honor the genre that gets little notice outside of high school and college Literature classes. Events are organized. “Poetry slams” are encountered. Bookstores feature poetry. Literate Presidents provide proclamations. For many, it is an important spotlight for this literary art form.
In high school we learned all about the literary devices that are important to many poems. It is not just end rhyme that is important, as many poems do not include this. It is also alliteration, that is the repetition of initial consonant sounds as in the title above.
There is also rhythm which helps the lines to flow or give it that musical quality. Of course, rhyme, particularly “end rhyme” also plays into this. I always thought that the Carol King Tapestry album demonstrated the use of sound devices quite well. In my mind it is one of the most brilliant and literate albums of all time.
My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold
This brings me to a salient point for the non believers of the importance of poetry. Many will say they do not read poetry and in fact do not know any poems. Of course, this is not true. Most of us can recite poems without any problem at all. That is because we all have song lyrics embedded in our memory banks.
We sing along with songs on the radio and before long we know the lyrics. We play our favorite albums often and the words can be quickly recalled. We know these lyrics, that is the poems, better than any we encountered in school. While some could not think of a poem from class that they still know, they can recall song lyrics at a moment’s notice.
In college, at proms and dances, even at weddings Beginnings by Chicago was a popular song in the 1970s. I recall the song today just as I did back then. The poem has stayed with me and I am always happy to sing along. The words did not rely heavily on sound devices. It let the music and the meaning carry it.
When I’m with you It doesn’t matter where we are Or what we’re doing I’m with you, that’s all that matters
On the 1st of April, 1996 President Clinton told us: “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry.” He went on to tell us “creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture.”
If you listen to a lot of music on the radio, you may think that much of what you hear resembles bad fifth grade poetry with an obnoxious meter designed to drive you crazy. This is not unique to today’s song lyrics. After all our generation had “bubble gum music:”
Yummy, yummy, yummy I got love in my tummy and I feel like a-lovin’ you Love, you’re such a sweet thing, good enough to eat thing And it’s just a-what I’m gonna do
We will spare you the link to this Ohio Express “classic.” I will force you to search the internet for it yourself. Don’t worry, every bad song is immortalized on You Tube.
Aside from your favorite Carol King or Chicago song lyrics, there are many poets sending a message without music. These hard-working scribes need an extra push to catch the attention of the reading public. National poetry month is meant to help that along.
Did you know that the United States has an official poet? The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, better known as the United States Poet Laureate, is Tracy K. Smith. The person serving in this capacity “seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”
The post was started in 1937 as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, but was changed by Congress in 1985 to its present title. The post has been held by such literary heavyweights as Robert Penn Warren, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, James Dickey, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others. You may have read some of them in school.
I recall Frost from my school days. I always saw the importance of his work, The Road Not Taken, and probably appreciate it more now than I did then. You can support poetry this month by doing more than bad karaoke at the local inn. Read a poem, buy a book of poetry, listen to poems on Audible or some poetry site. You may find works that are more important than the lyrics to your favorite song.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I was a fervent, probably thoroughly obnoxious student of comparative religion in my final two years of university. It was no doubt the culmination of my search for The Whole Truth. I wanted a key that would unlock the meaning of everything. I’ve written about “The Meaning of Everything.” It is my all-time favorite post, even if it isn’t my best post.
This, however, isn’t about me.
It’s about Mr. Wekerle, pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable. He was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University when I was attending.
I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was also the only professor could tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t actually read the books. The only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.
The A+ was for style, the D- for content.
Mr. Wekerle — he was ABD having not quite finished that doctoral thesis and I don’t know if he ever did — made me work for my grades. Made me think. Forced me to spell everything out and never assume my reader already knew any of the material. Which, as it turned out, served me very well in the business world.
He read every page of every paper submitted in class. He was harder on me than on other students because he felt I had potential as an academic. I probably did, but life had other plans for me.
One of his best tricks for getting students to listen attentively in class was to whisper. It was what we call a “stage whisper.” Loud enough to be heard at the back of the room if no one talked or rustled papers.
In Wekerle’s classes, no one wanted to sit in the back. You never wanted to miss a single word. Especially not during his annual “Phenomenology” lecture. Students would show up from all over campus to sit in on it, even if they’d heard it half a dozen times over the years.
We would sit there, breathless as he whispered the meaning of everything into the hushed room.
Never underestimate the power of a quiet voice, in words spoken in a whisper. Shouting may get attention, but a whisper can change the world.
Phenomenology, a philosophical movement originating in the 20th century, the primary objective of which is the direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously experienced, without theories about their causal explanation and as free as possible from unexamined preconceptions and presuppositions.
The first mention of either the Lady of the Lake or Ninian (Niniane, Vivian, etc.) is to be found in the late work Prose Merlin. Her character remains much the same through to Sir Thomas Malory, who simply makes the story more complex. In all the stories that name her Ninian is a fully developed character. She is the original owner of Arthur’s second sword and later becomes Merlin’s pupil.
However, as with many aspects of the Arthurian literary world, there are serious gaps in reasoning with her story, and these gaps suggest a very different origin for her. For instance, Merlin somehow knows she will betray him, but teaches her anyway. The romances explain that he does so because he loves her, but that sounds like more of a rationalization of something not understood than a historical fact that is.
The end of her story is that Niniane does trap Merlin in a cave the moment her studies are over. He is left there, alive (again, no serious explanation). It certainly is not out of malice for Arthur. Niniane takes over as his counselor for the remainder of his reign and does her best to help him. She is also one of the four women who take him to Avalon. That is the extent of Ninian’s literary career. Clearly, her original character and the transformation have been hidden by chance and misunderstandings.
Uinniau was a prominent ecclesiastic of sixth-century Britain who may have been Columba’s teacher. He was known as Niniane in Welsh saints’ lives or Nynia by Bede. However, much of Scotland has place-names derived from his proper name of Uinniau. This Uinniau was known for three things mainly. First, he was one of the most knowledgeable persons of his age. Second, he was a great teacher who made his monastery of Whithorn was a primary center of learning in Britain. Finally, it is known that he would occasionally go on a retreat to a nearby cave, known as St. Ninian’s Cave, which was several miles away from his monastery.
Niniane would eventually became the form by which Uinniau was exclusively known. In fact, the process must have been an early one. Bede, writing in 725, knew him only by that name. It was an unfortunate circumstance that Niniane was a Celtic name, and the romance writers who would treat Arthur on the continent spoke Germanic and Latin languages. The unfamiliarity with Celtic would lead to confusion over his gender, and he became a she there.
Arthur was an attractive figure in the literature of the Middle Ages, gravitating all manner of figures, motifs, and stories to him. In previous blogs, I have mentioned the attraction of the Myrddin (Merlin) legend and the figure of Urien. The same sort of fate awaited Uinniau. Long before Arthur had become a figure of romance, Uinniau’s dominant name-form had become to Niniane. For the Celtic speaker that was still a male name, but for continentals, it was female.
That change from male to female, from independent ecclesiastic to intelligent layperson was where Uinniau became a different literary figure. Once Uinniau was a part of the Arthurian universe, his reputation for intelligence would have drawn him to the already established Merlin; in an irony of history, a lunatic (Myrddin) became the teacher of one of the best-read people of the age (Uinniau). Once that transformation was accomplished, the latent aspects of Uinniau’s memory easily made their way into Arthurian the tales, and Merlin was trapped in the cave Uinnau had used as a refuge.
I won’t pretend to know how Ninian became the Lady of the Lake. However, she would not have begun her Arthurian career that way. She would have started off as Merlin’s pupil and successor with the qualities of her historical precursor intact. She was associated with a lake only by Robert de Boron, an author that I have discovered in my research was not one to stick with his traditional sources. It is possible he knew of some Celtic tale which he used to enhance Uinniau’s mythology. It is equally possible he used something more contemporary. That part of the history of the Lady of the Lake we may never know.
You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858. Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.
Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day. Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote. Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.
We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.
Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition. They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.
“Solvency” is not an issue. A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, just should be better for society. Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.
One of the suggested topics for the coming year is Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be. Historical examples would provide support. Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.
These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one. The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal interval. Total speaking times end up the same. The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.
Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose. Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.
Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution. Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly. The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point. Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined. Then each speaks in rebuttal. In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.
You’d better come prepared!
A topic for next season’s two-man debate will be Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States.
The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.
Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate. In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con. There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence. General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support. Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.
Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently. Bombast and supposition will not do. Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.
A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic. With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.” There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent. It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.
Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media. In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates. Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance. The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.
The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic. One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president. The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.
On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points. One friend often posts news articles on current social issues. A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.
If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up! For him, that is the only topic which really matters.
Another friend likes to engage me in a debate. I try not to fall for it anymore. If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”
The response is likely to be “What about Obama? Huh? You never said anything against him when he was president.”
“Yes, I did.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“You weren’t listening.”
“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”
There is no staying on topic sometimes. It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.
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