Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Bah-Freaking-Humbug December 20, 2007

As I texted Calvin during the dinner I spent the other evening with work people, there’s nothing like Christmas to make you remember exactly how much you hate society.

I guess the Honors Program has spoiled me – while the last semester has been hectic, it’s been spent mostly at school, and I’ve consequently been spending most of my social time with Honors kids, who can, on the whole:

1) Carry on intelligent conversations
2) Make good grades
3) Make passably amusing jokes
4) Understand and relate to me when I talk about an old Nickelodeon show such as “Hey Dude!”; a movie such as “Indiana Jones”; a book such as “Anne of Green Gables”; or a hobby such as crochet.

As I say, I’ve gotten used to this, and while an idiotic or banal conversation will sometimes sneak in (“I don’t think gay people should be allowed to adopt,” or “What the hell is wrong with Britney Spears?”, for example), I’ve greatly enjoyed the quality level of the conversation, and had rather forgotten that people out in the real world are capable of less.

All you need know about my dinner companions is that the evening was tailored to the two fourteen-year-olds present.

I think these people need a Christmas Miracle or something, seriously. As much as I come down on all these crappy Christmas movies, at the end, the protagonists nearly always realize the true meaning of the holiday – after, that is, they see what the world would be like were they never born; watch their whole family die in a tragic accident; fall in love; or learn that Santa Claus is real after all.

I say these people need a Christmas Miracle because I cannot remember the last time I heard such materialistic, self-centered bullshit issue from the mouths of humans.

While fundamentalist christians and I have a well-recorded and checkered history, I can agree with them on one point: their “Jesus is the Reason for The Season” campaign may be utterly obnoxious (not to mention preposterous, considering that many scientists and theologists now peg the date of his birth at or around April 19, 6 B.C., and celebrations of the Winter Solstice were around looooong before then), but I have to applaud them for their attempt to shift the focus of Christmas away from pointless, soulless reception of gifts to which a lot of kids seem to have reduced it.

I’ve decided to jump on a modified Ebeneezer Scrooge Bandwagon, or perhaps a better title would be the Grinch Bandwagon. While Seuss posited that the Grinch just straight-up hated the”whole Christmas season,” I think perhaps the metaphor is deeper. Was the green fellow not merely scornful of a holiday manipulated by greed? Did he not free the Whos of their dependence upon the Gods of Retail by removing their false idols, and gently teach them that Christmas is really about standing in a circle and singing Kumbayah?

I may soon be adorning a dog in antlers and creeping tip-toed into living rooms in the regional area to steal presents.

Much of the conversation at dinner consisted of my boss – who was driving the conversational bus straight to crazytown – asking everyone what was “on their Christmas lists,” what they wanted and had asked for, etc.

One of the girls who had received a touch-screen iPod for her birthday not a month earlier expressed a desire for an iPhone.  Oh, amusing story about her iPod, by the way. She snooped through her mother’s closet several months before her birthday and discovered it. Then she mentioned to her mother that she had done so, and her mother, rather than saying, “Hey, what the hell were you doing in my closet?”, said something along the lines of “Oh, well, ya caught me.”

Ha-ha! Isn’t that charming?

The other explained that her mother had been buying her gifts since August, and that when they walked through stores, all she had to do was comment upon something’s cuteness, and, I quote, the mom “remembers, and gets it for me!”

And in my day we walked eight miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways.

And then it came to me, the cheery, “So, what did you ask for?”

“Well, if I asked for everything I wanted and then got it,” I replied levelly, “it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it?”

This garnered facial expressions I haven’t seen since I last watched “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” (more…)


A Fairy Tale Steeped in Allegory June 15, 2007

Once upon a time there was a high school. It was a beautiful high school, and rich in history, being more than 200 years old, and everybody in town wanted to attend it. With its fine roots in liberal education and the almost unprecedented power over their own destinies that it bestowed upon its students, it was unlike any other high school in the district, or indeed, the state. At the turn of the last century, whole families, many of them Irish and Eastern European, moved across town so that they’d be zoned for it. The high school welcomed them with open arms, but the students weren’t so kind. It is my sad duty to report that many of these new students were beaten up, or had their lockers vandalized. Thankfully, things settled down, and the high school was once again a harmonious whole.

In the 40s, there was a shameless and dangerous power grab by a school superintendent a few districts over. He was intent upon eventually absorbing every school in the state into his district, under his control, and decreeing with a wave of his hand who could stay and who could not. Fortunately, the president of the student body, a well-liked disabled guy named Frank, worked tirelessly with the other schools until the superintendent was voted safely out of office.

But our story begins about fifteen years ago with the election of a Jock to Student Body President. The Jock was a nice guy, everybody liked him, and there was no denying that he had charm. He was a great guy to grab a burger with, and, whoever you were, you felt like the Jock knew where you were coming from. At this time – actually, to this day – the Jock was going steady with someone who defied high school logic.

Instead of dating a cheerleader, as guys of his ilk so often do, the Jock had chosen a militant, angry feminist, who, until she began seeing the Jock, was known to the student body at large only as “That Chick Who Stands In Front Of The Cafeteria Yelling Ayn Rand Quotes At The Top Of Her Lungs”.

Even though many students found her abrasive, they couldn’t deny that the Jock’s Girlfriend knew politics, so they hesitatingly took her along with him. There were rumors that the Jock was seeing other girls on the side, everybody heard the rumors, even the Jock’s Girlfriend, but most chose to ignore them. The whole school exploded, though, when it turned out that the Jock was Friends With Benefits with a freshman girl named Monica. There was some fallout, talk of expulsion, but the Jock and his girlfriend stood their ground. The students were a little confused when the Jock’s Girlfriend, with all her talk of feminism and equality, didn’t leave him for his transgression. Instead, she affected a “stand by your man” attitude about the whole thing, a concept her feminist girlfriends weren’t sure if they should take offense to.

The next Student Body President was from Texas, he, too, was a jock, but with a Cowboy sensibility. The only person to run against him was former Student Body Vice President, a Math Geek. Well, I say the only person, but Ralph ran too. Ralph, an intense loner, ran for Student Body President every election, always garnering no more votes than he had friends. Ralph had Big Ideas about what the high school could be, and had even caused some huge shakeups in the Driver’s Ed program, penalizing students for not wearing seat belts. But Ralph kind of creeped out the other students with his Big Ideas, and, perhaps sadly, was never elected. (more…)


Failing at Freedom to Learn September 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — JJ @ 2:22 am

Can we imagine no better meaning for education than mere school?


Inherit the Wind Still Evolving Its Power of Story September 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — JJ @ 9:54 pm

Rosie Forrest is the artistic associate of Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, and is currently serving as the dramaturg for the theatre’s revival of “Inherit the Wind.” Here she writes for The Scientist, Magazine of the Life Sciences:

The evolution of Inherit the Wind
The classic play has something to teach us about the intersection
between science and religion at three crucial points in American history

Inherit the Wind is a play that belongs to three decades. Its story was
inspired by the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1920s, it was a hit on Broadway
in 1950s, and it remains pertinent to the battle between evolution and
intelligent design that found its way to a Pennsylvania courthouse only
last year…