Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Sleepless Assortment

Sleep is getting to be the biggest of my physical challenges. I’m used to being up at 4:00 AM for occupational reasons, but lately even remaining in bed till then has become impossible for reasons of chronic pain that’s exacerbated by lying down. But even a cloud this dark has its silver lining: more time to rant and rave.

1. Trahison des Clercs Dept.

The esteemed Charles Hill, as he so often does, leads off with a citation of a pithy piece about “educational reforms:”

An interesting theory being put forth here: “Education reforms are driven mostly by what is fun for schoolteachers to teach.” Example:
After all, what is the standard rap against “traditional” math? The main complaint is that it’s “just” teaching “rote” memorization. But what’s wrong with rote memorization? Speaking as someone who got pretty far in math, I’d say that when it comes to the basic arithmetic kids are trying to absorb at the grade-school level, rote memorization is just fine. Arithmetic is one of those things that’s utterly boring once you know it, and once you absorb the patterns. But until that happens, “rotely memorizing” it is just as fine a method as any other. “Rote memorization” isn’t a bad way to teach, it’s just a dreary way to teach. So teachers refuse to do it, and will work up whatever education theories they need in order to not have to. Even if it works.

Charles’s frequent commenter Fillyjonk added the following:

I always thought educational “reforms” were to keep the people who wrote them in business. The whole idea of “This MUST be good because it’s NEW” until someone comes up with the next NEW thing.

Fillyjonk's point about "educational reforms" is apposite. Along with that, teachers -- who prefer greatly to be called "educators," an Orwellian label if ever there was one -- absolutely hate to confront a basic fact about their trade (NB: NOT a "profession," of which there are very few, for reasons best left to another rant): Teaching itself, below the college level at least, is rote, repetitive work.

In this regard, I find myself thinking of art and art critics. Robert A. Heinlein once said that the critic was the ultimate "occupational democrat," in that he, an uncreative person, hates all creative people equally...even as he aspires to seize their status for himself. The teacher suffers a similar affliction. He works in a rote trade, the fundamental principles of which were determined long ago. Like any rote worker, he’s expected to produce certain results at a certain rate, and he hates it. In many cases he even hates his juvenile victims, for they are the ultimate reminders of his lowliness.

One consequence is the teacher’s desire to elevate teaching to a status it does not objectively deserve, by dressing it up with all manner of au courant theories and accretions about the importance of irrelevancies. (e.g., “We don’t teach history; we teach little Johnny.”). The faster those theories change and the more exotic and incomprehensible they become, the higher the status the teacher can claim among “brain workers,” for is it not the case that the “leading edge” occupations are those whose jargon becomes ever more ramified and opaque, and which experience the greatest rates of change?

So the practitioners of this part-time, repetitive trade, whose objectives have been known for generations and whose foci are surly, short-attention-span spratlings whose parents are happy just to have them out of their care for a few hours each day, have resolved to make themselves into a priesthood of sorts, the keepers of mysteries unfathomable to those of us without M.Ed. degrees and NEA membership cards. That the point of it all has been effaced in favor of occupational status – with the concomitant elevation of salary and perquisites, of course – might be one that the “educators” hope to exclude from discussion, but the swelling of America’s homeschooling population suggests that that’s a battle in which they’ll be on defense for the foreseeable future, and might be overrun sooner than we expect.

2. Fun With Conspiracy Theories.

Fellowship Of The Minds, a site I discovered only recently, cites the controversial Pastor Chuck Baldwin on some recent news with significant Tin Foil Hat potential:

Chuck Baldwin is a radio broadcaster, syndicated columnist, and pastor dedicated to preserving the historic principles upon which America was founded.

The following is from his column of Sept. 11, 2014, “Who Killed Joan Rivers?.” I added the video of Rivers and the embedded links.

That most of Joan’s peers did NOT crucify her for her statement that Michelle Obama is a transvestite makes me tend to believe that they all know Joan told the truth and just didn’t have the courage to say it. Plus, she was JOAN RIVERS: the quintessential icon of the entertainment left.

(See “Joan Rivers: ‘We all know’ Obama is gay and Michelle is a tranny“)

My question is, what if Joan Rivers actually told the TRUTH about the Obamas? What if it’s true that Barack and Michelle (Or is the name Michael?) really are homosexuals, that Michelle really is a man, and that they have pulled off the greatest political hoax in the history of the United States? The timing of Rivers’ death is an incredible coincidence, if it’s not true. That is for sure.

Rivers went in for what would be regarded as simple out-patient surgery. How many millions of Americans have gone through this, and similar surgeries, without a hitch? Granted, she was 81. But she was a healthy 81. Granted, fluke deaths do sometimes happen during “simple” surgeries. But what a coincidence! The most iconic female comedian in the entire country accuses Michelle Obama of being a transvestite, and less than two months later, she is dead.

Okay, this is a bit “out there,” but there are reasons to entertain the notion anyway, not the least of which is that it’s really entertaining.

What comes to mind at this juncture is the flap during the 2008 presidential campaign and afterward, largely propelled by noted sodomite Andrew Sullivan, over Trig Palin’s parentage. Sullivan kept demanding proof that Trig was really Sarah Palin’s child, insisting that there were sound reasons to believe Trig was really Bristol’s progeny. Why? Because like any unrepentant sodomite, he hated this devout Christian woman who’d achieved what he could not: a genuinely masculine and loving husband, five beautiful children, and serenity in God’s arms. So he kept up his insane ranting until it was clear even to his virally-addled brain that he’d ceased to make sense.

Has no one asked about Malia and Sasha’s parentage? Where they were born? Who the attending physician was? Whether there was testimony or documentary substantiation that they’d emerged from Michelle Obama’s womb? Given the inseparability of Barack Hussein Obama and his “body man” Reggie Love, the Wookie-like appearance of Michelle, her atrocious fashion choices, and the several separate vacations they’ve taken, how could anyone fail to ask?

On which note I retire from the field and leave further exploration of the question to my Gentle Readers!

3. Enough Inspiration For Another Dozen Novels.

There are any number of fiction writers who also write op-ed – hey, this is the age of the Internet – and whose fiction mostly leaves me unmoved but whose op-eds often strike me as piercing and valuable. One such is John C. Wright, something of a star among Right-leaning science fiction readers, who frequently fires off bits of opinion that should leave the great majority of other Web commentators staring upward in wonder, fighting off the urge to prostrate themselves in self-abasement.

Here’s today’s gem:

A guy with the vunderbar name of VunderGuy takes a frustrated pen in hand and writes:
Even great authors like you, Vox Day, and Larry are relatively obscure, so what’s a chump like me to do to have an impact, ESPECIALLY as a writer?

All Saint Veronica did was wipe the face of Christ with a cloth as He was being led off to crucifixion, a single moment of compassion and pity. And she was granted sainthood for the act.

If you only write one book in your whole life, and only sell 600 copies or less, nonetheless, I assure you, I solemnly assure you, that this book will be someone’s absolutely favorite book of all time, and it will come to him on some dark day and give him sunlight, and open his eyes and fill his heart and make him see things in life even you never suspected, and will be his most precious tale, and it will live in his heart like the Book of Gold.

Please read the whole thing. It’s more than worth your time, especially if you write. But allow me to cite the final sentence, which is particularly relevant to my own labors:

You will never meet that one reader, not in this life. In heaven he will come to you and fall on his face and anoint your feet with tears of gratitude, and you will stand astonished and humbled, having never suspected.

The relevance is this: I have “met” that one reader, through the Internet of course, and my own fiction writing is in great part propelled by my awareness of her. She’s a young woman in India. Though she gave me her name unabashedly, I’ll refer to her as Mari (which it wasn’t).

Mari stumbled upon Chosen One and On Broken Wings during a period when, in an attempt to popularize my fiction, I was giving it away. As was often the case among my female readers, she was captivated by my Catholic superman Louis Redmond, easily the most popular of all my protagonists. Mari wrote to tell me so, including that she had loved and lost someone very much like Louis some years before. Her thanks and praise were so effusive that I was moved to tears.

Here’s the Ace kicker: Mari wasn’t enthralled by Louis because of his extraordinary power or brilliance; she loved him for his moral standards, his generosity of body, mind, and spirit, and his absolute dedication to truth and justice. Those things were what she had loved most in him whom she’d lost and had never since encountered in any man, real or fictional. The echo in Louis’s attributes was what made my books her “books of gold.” As she put it, she could not have refrained from writing to tell me, and was inexpressibly grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I’d known for a while that there’s a shortage of genuinely heroic heroes in contemporary fiction. It was a great part of the reason I undertook to write fiction. But I hadn’t expected anything like Mari’s reaction.

Today, when my physical pains challenge my perseverance, when fatigue seems to have become the only element in my consciousness, and when I find myself despairing of ever again producing fiction worth a discerning reader’s time, allowing myself to remember Mari’s note of thanks and praise is more than enough to keep me at the keyboard. I owe her a debt at least equal in size to whatever she thinks she owes me. Mari, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, please know that I give thanks for you and pray for you daily. Remember that always, especially when times are darkest.

May God bless and keep you all.


Adrienne said...

Such a lovely post, although I doubt that the teachers will agree.

A teachers job is not to teach. A teachers job is to make someone want to learn. Entirely different approaches.

The teachers reward is seeing that which is old for the first time when the pupil has their light bulb moment.

I will agree that the majority of teachers today are slugs.

That being said - I'm sorry about your pain and lack of sleep, but it hasn't dimmed your brilliance.

daniel_day said...

I taught English in Japan for 14 years. I lost my enthusiasm for meetings of Japan Association of Language Teachers over exactly the tendency Hill notes, the constant flurry of excitement over the next & newest Unified Field Theory of Language Teaching.
On the subject of Michelle 0, I'm skeptical she's a transsexual for a practical reason: For all those thousands of dollars, wouldn't the surgeon have installed larger assets?

LindaF said...

(1) Francis, your books have been well-loved by me. I, too, loved Louis as a character.

(2) No, Michelle probably isn't a tranny, just an unfortunately awkward and ungainly woman with horribly bowed legs (which may be in great part due to her height). For her, marriage to Obama paid off, BIG time, both in fame, and in ca$h.

(3) My only hope is that what I write allows the torch to be kept alive long enough to be passed to the next person.

Reg T said...

I've only read The Realm of Essences trilogy four times, so I can't say it is "that _one_ book" for me :-) Nonetheless, it is the morality of Louis that informs me, even more than his martial abilities. But especially in the character's ability to know - and act - when violence of action are both necessary and the _correct_ thing to do. Without agonizing over whether he has the "right" to harm another human being, or whether guns are evil, or if eating meat is a crime, or any of the other ridiculous notions current on the Left apply.

The entire body of your work is incredible, Fran, but the characters of both Louis and Christine are heroic more for the healthy nature of their "souls" (forgive this agnostic for using that word ;-) than for their skill at arms. I would be a much poorer man had you not put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. Long live Oneonta, er, Onteora.