Musings, Nits, and Praises: August 2006

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Legislating Morality

“There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”

One of the aspects of teaching English I really appreciate is that I get to revist literature I read in high school. Although I've always prided myself on my reading comprehension skills, I'm amazed how often a book that I teach speaks to me in a much more profound way than it did a decade or more ago. I guess a little life experience goes a long way.

When I read Lord of the Flies my senior year, I found it to be an intriguing story and could readily identify the symbolism Golding employs, but I never developed a deeper appreciation for it. But when I re-read it last week to prepare to teach it to my seniors (it was one of their summer reading assignments), the truth of Golding's assertion that society's flaws stem from the evil within individuals resonated with me in a way it didn't in high school.

If there is a work of literature that emphatically demonstrates the impossibility to legislate morality, it's
LoF. Given the push by some right-wing Christian groups to legislate morality--ban abortion, ban gay marriage--I'm glad to teach the novel at a Christian school. I am in no way qualified to argue the legality or lack thereof of banning abortion and gay marriage, but I do feel like I can assess the usefulness of such laws. I don't condone abortion or engaging in homosexual conduct, but I believe people who seek to make our nation more Christian by banning such things are missing the bigger picture. Changing laws doesn't change people's hearts.

In the novel, only Simon exhibits a true understanding of right and wrong. The other boys adhere to moral codes to varying degrees only because they were taught that civilized people should act in such a manner. For example, early in the novel, Roger obstains from hitting Percival with stones because he remembers being taught that you shouldn't do such things. Roger is the same boy who later sadistically kills the sow and rolls the boulder that crushes Piggy. When he realizes that society doesn't bind him on the island, he sees no reason to let rules and customs inhibit his desires.

In our country, banning abortion, gay marriage, and the like would do little to instill in individuals an understanding of why such things are sinful. Women would still have abortions--they'd just do so illegally. People would still engage in homosexual relationships--they just wouldn't have a certificate to recognize it. I don't believe that Christians should avoid politcal activism, but it seems to me that too many Christians are looking for a messiah in legislation than in Jesus Christ. A more Christian nation can only result from Christians spreading the gospel and living as Christ taught us to live.

Mike, What About the Five W's Plus the H?

Given that Mike Wallace has decades of network news experience, one would think he's a master of the fundamental questions a journalist seeks to answer: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? But apparently Mike has softened since 1979, when he asked Khomeini to respond to Anwar Sadat's calling him a lunatic. Seeing as how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems rather hell-bent on the destruction of Israel and the U.S., one would think that in his 60 Minutes interview Wallace would've asked him questions like "How can your motivation for pursuing nuclear power be to meet your country's energy needs when your country basically floats on oil?" or "What makes the U.S. the 'Great Satan'?" or "Why do you want to 'wipe Israel off the map,' as you said last October?"

Sweatin' in Memphis

Today it reached 107 degrees with the heat index. That spells a lot of sweating when you teach in a school with air-conditionless hallways, and you fatuously elect to wear a shirt and tie to work.

As J.A. reads this, it's probably 68 in Malibu.

In-Service, Out-of-Mind

I would've posted something last week, but in-service pretty well attenuated my brain power. When I was a high school student, I never realized all the non-teaching responsibilities of teaching. I just figured my teachers prepared lessons, graded exams and papers, and called it a day. Occasionally one of them would mention something in passing about in-service, but he or she never really elaborated on it. Now that I've been through my fair share of in-service time, I realize why my teachers refrained from speaking about it--it's too painful. It's the pedagogical equivalent of a disquieting war memory.

Okay, that's more than just a wee bit hyperbolic. It's better to compare in-service to dental work--it's helpful but not necessarily pleasant . Exacerbating the problem is that in-service is the week in which I try to reacclimate myself to getting up at the crack of dawn, so it's quite a challenge to listen to a series of presentations while fending off sleep.

However, in-service to this point (it started last Tuesday for me--new teacher training--and ends Wednesday) has had some bright spots, with the foremost being that I've had a chance to meet a lot of the faculty. Having grown accustomed to my colleagues in Austin, it's a bit peculiar to be working with a different faculty, but everyone has been quite amiable and helpful, and I can tell they are genuinely Christ-minded people, which I expected but appreciate immensely just the same. Now if Friday would just get here so I could teach some students.

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