Monthly Archives: August 2012

“You are going to graduate on time!”

“You are going to graduate on time!”

High school freshmen orientation…freshpeople orientation. New student orientation..yes. First thing, once the kids are seated after their tour, the announcement is made that they are going to sign a document committing to graduate. “You are going to sign…!” Touching story of how sad it is each year at graduation ceremonies to receive the signal to remove the chairs of those who, “for whatever reason, couldn’t make it to graduation.” The principal reiterates the importance of graduating, on time.

How about not using the school to steamroll individuality? How about not making simplistic categories of those that graduate on time and the rest, who are part of the backslidden, down-fallen, dreaded DROPOUT population? Wouldn’t it at least be proper, in a democratic setting, to add, “Those who cannot in good conscience sign are not required to do so”?

Okay, so I’m part of a minority population that has chosen to either ignore or strategically use rather than automatically become part of the educational system. I’ve been a homeschooler for many years. But I didn’t always think this way–I didn’t know any different until I met Chris, one of my homeschool heroines. She is the mother of seven extremely well-adjusted, intelligent and creative homeschooled children, the youngest of whom is now a new high school student. When this young student came smiling from the line with, “Mom, I committed to graduate! Aren’t you proud of me?” Her mother answered (uncharacteristically non-affirmingly), “No, it was because of peer pressure!” I found out that if this daughter does decide to graduate before going on to college or other pursuits, she will be the first one to do so of her siblings! Yet they are all well educated, and all those beyond “high school age” have chosen positive and progressive paths based on their gifts and interests. All have continued formal studies and are welcomed in a variety of job, volunteer and community situations. These young people are admired for their ability to relate, to value their family and community relationships, and for their various other talents and abilities. Yet they didn’t “graduate on time,” or graduate at all.

Later I spoke with the teacher who led the cheering-on of the students signing their commitment to graduate. I asked him if he knew that colleges did not necessarily require high school diplomas. He didn’t, and was surprised and open to learning more. We talked about how not graduating did not equal failure, and how there were many students who would be encouraged and excited to know that they could be free to design personal educational programs that prepared them for their career and life interests without locking them into the list of high school diploma requirements. Could young students be trusted with that information? Time to at least talk it over with the principal and others, he decided.

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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Education


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O Love that Will Not Let Me Go

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

George Mattheson, 1882

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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Arts, Poetry and Music


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Usefulness index, and truth in advertising

My son asked me a question about death versus birth rates today while we were shopping for laundry detergent in a department store. I asked him to repeat the question, as I had been daydreaming. He wanted to know how to calculate the population change rate if one person dies of hunger every three seconds, one person every eighteen seconds of other causes, and one person is born every second. By the time I was ready to pay for my detergent, we had figured it out, and as we walked toward the exit, I told him what I’d been daydreaming about. I had been scanning shelves full of products and wondering how many useful things there were for sale as compared to useless ones. We agreed that there was a low usefulness index in this store. “How many types of flipflops are necessary?” I asked. We decided maybe three, and sizes could be more flexible. “How many types of processed cereal?” None.

Then we thought it would be funny to make up completely truthful advertisements for products.

Hello, my name is Joshua and I am a movie star, paid three thousand dollars to tell you about this plastic toy car. They cost the store three cents each to buy, including the package which you will throw away. They want you to buy one or more for one dollar each. We will pay our employees as little as possible of what we earn from the sale of these cars. You do not need it and never will. It is a wasteful use of resources and will not decompose. Thank you.

Hello, my name is Gillian and I am dressed as a farmer, but I am an actress getting paid by this store  to tell you about this package of green bean seeds. These cost the store one dollar per package, and they are selling them for three dollars. If you buy and plant these seeds and care for them properly,  they will produce tasty and healthy beans which you can eat. You can also use them to grow hundreds more seeds so you will no longer need to buy any. Thank you.


Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Economics, Ethics, Ideas


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Is it arrogance, inexperience, or stupidity that makes some cyclists so careless?

Yesterday two cyclists ahead were pedaling along in the right-hand bike lane  at a good clip. Coming up behind I got ready to cautiously pass on their left. I take others’ safety very seriously, and I am very aware of the vulnerability of those on the roads who have no steel exoskeleton. Getting hit by a careless driver’s suddenly opened door was enough to emphasize that vulnerability.

Suddenly the foremost cyclist signaled left and immediately crossed my path to the left turning lane. Arghh! I would have hit him if I had already accelerated to the speed limit to pass! I hesitated in case the second biker did the same thing, but he was wiser and looked first to see what I was doing, signaled, looked again, and then crossed over as I waited for him. What was the difference between these two drivers? What was the first one thinking?

I hail the bike commuting revolution, commuted on my bike for years, and agree that automobile drivers need to share the road. But the way some cyclists behave on the roads, I’m afraid of what could happen to them when my sixteen year old son and other drivers in training encounter them pedaling around as if the road belongs to them. And, frankly, what can happen to the person behind the wheel who is held responsible for hitting a biker. And then there are the drivers who periodically lose their wits to anger when other travelers aren’t careful or courteous. There’s a huge difference between the risk of hitting another automobile and hitting a cyclist–namely possible injury and possible death, and cyclists ought to remember they are sharing the road with many less than ideal motorists. Cyclists, keep your lives in your own hands as much as you can–drive defensively!

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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Places & Experiences


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Idea: Sustainability scoring on retail goods

Can some mathematical/economic geniuses out there come up with an algorithm to calculate the sustainability score of every product sold on the market? One could start with categories of products generally recognized to have least intrinsic value. It could include measures of environmental sustainability such as:

  • energy use in manufacturing, distribution, and promotion
  • proportion of renewable to non-renewable resources used in manufacture
  • proportion of substance to packaging
  • recyclability/compostability of packaging and product
  • other environmental impacts of manufacture, distribution, and discard
  • longevity as a useful item, multiple uses

As some of these figures would change depending on the retail location, the score could be automatically adjusted in each retailer’s system in pricing. The labels on shelves would include a score, out of twenty, for example, with a margin of error. Scores could be adjusted as manufacturers and distributors changes products and practices in response to social pressure. Individuals with no vested interest the success or failure of individual products could also influence scores they believed to be inaccurate.

Another measure of social sustainability could include considerations such as:

  • social costs and benefits of manufacture at source
  • distribution of costs and profits
  • social, psychological, and health costs and benefits of owning and using item

In this day of easy access to information and fast  communication, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take a stab at this. Think of the competition for good scores between companies selling competing products, and of retailers to carry products with better scores. Think of any product in any store, anything you have bought or thought about buying–how would they compare? Low quality products could just die on the proverbial vine…

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Economics, Ethics, Ideas


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Should we require our children to try new programs? In our case

Should we require our children to try new programs? In our case

This is my opinion based on my experience as a mother of my four children, ages nine and up as of this writing. I’m not a psychologist, and I’m open to hearing other views, because this is not a simple issue–at least for me, as I’m not a forceful person. I want people, especially my children, to be courageous, ethical, well-disciplined and loving, without being told to do it. I want them to love learning. I want to research options for them, present the best and have them choose the best. I want them to eat some spinach because it’s good for them, introduce themselves to a new kid because it’s the neighborly thing to do, and ask me to sign them up for all the programs that teach something useful for their development and for getting on in the world. I was brought up to value reasonableness and have a natural aversion to being pressured myself. So I let it go.  I have become more realistic, however, about the ways in which I can and should go about being my children’s educational facilitator. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Education, Parenting & Family



Idea: Tax people who live in houses too big for them

What if property taxes on homes were proportional to the number of people living in and using them? It seems like such a waste to build houses with a thousand square feet per person to heat, maintain, and then remodel. When the kids grow up, people would be motivated to move into smaller housing, or trade with their kids when the grandkids arrive. As a friend of mine pointed out, no one really needs to maintain a big house solely for the purpose of entertaining. As long as there’s a kitchen to hang out in…

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Economics, Ethics, Ideas


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