18 May 2003
Maybe I'm expecting too much of three piles of books, but they're just not cohering very well right now. The three piles are the books I have yet to read from our own collection (and intend to read soon), the ones I borrowed from David, and the library books I got yesterday. What I'm looking for is an end, somewhere I can start so that I'll have the right balance to read them all. So that I won't read one and then find myself stymied for what comes after it. Basically, so that I won't be doing this again.
I finished A Clash of Kings yesterday -- it probably would have been better if I hadn't decided on approximately page 5 of A Game of Thrones not to believe anybody was dead unless I saw him/her die onstage and stop twitching, but I couldn't do that. I just couldn't believe in it. So I wasn't sad or surprised or anything when it looked like I was supposed to be. Then after we got back from the mall and the library, I read David's copy of How to Be Good. And now. Well. I've started both A Scattering of Jades and The Road to San Giovanni, and I have no idea which I'll read next, or what'll come after that. It's not that they're not books I want to read individually. I just can't make much sense of them as a group. I swear the library books made sense together when I was picking them out. Or at least I thought they did.
The advantage of going to the library on a Saturday afternoon is that I get to see all the grade school kids who aren't there at 1:00 on a weekday. There was one little girl who had gotten every volume of the Voyage of the Basset series off the shelf and was solemnly reading Islands in the Sky. That made me happy. And there were no Tamora Pierce books on the shelf -- I figure that the librarians hadn't had a chance to shelves the ones that the kids had returned, and they clearly dove on what was already out. I like to see that, too, although I would have liked it even better if Lady Knight had just happened to be the only one remaining on the shelf.
I didn't like to see the mall, but they had many of the things we were shopping for, and we emerged with our sanity mostly sort of intact-ish.
I enjoyed How to Be Good, but...eh. Hornby is sometimes full of it in a way that seems sad to me. Sometimes people are full of it, and I think, eh, whatever. But Hornby seems to be full of it in a subtly depressing way.
Oh, and if you get the urge to watch the movie version of "Harrison Bergeron," my advice is, do not. Not unless you're willing to make fun of it and stick "Mister Frodo, sir" at the end of all of the worse lines. (Sean Astin was cast as Harrison Bergeron. Sam Gamgee -- that Sean Astin. Not that he was miscast in the sense that some other actor could have done better with that script. Uff da mai.)
(As I explained in Rob's journal comments section, uff da mai is an intense form of uff da. It's Norwegian for oy veh. I don't know if actual Scandos still say uff da, but it's definitely a ScanAm thing. You can buy bumper stickers and fridge magnets and all manner of uff da paraphernalia.)
This morning Mark and I decided it was spring: I wore sandals and no stockings to church, he wore short sleeves. That did not make it significantly warmer, but spring is often an act of will. At home it is, at least: you decide that, darn it, 62 is, too, warm enough to go without stockings, because it's May and who cares that there's still snow in the Ridgedale parking lot? (Really you can't let yourself care if there's snow in the Ridgedale parking lot. It'll just throw you off for months.) But at home, there are some external signals as well as the force of will. Here, the will is pretty much what we've got for seasons. Wet, dry, and stubborn, that's what.
So. Sigh. The newspaper is on about the California high school exit exams again. We'll hear more of it before we get out of here, I'm sure. There was a rally against these tests, and one of the kids they interviewed said that it was penalizing kids for going to bad high schools. That I can see: if you get all A's in your classes, but the classes suck, you may not even know what you're not learning. Finding that out so that you can learn more is a good thing; having other people find that out so that they can change things is also good. The thing that bothers me here is that these tests are given eight times, starting the kids' freshman year. So if they know that they're getting good grades but not learning what they need to know to pass the test, they can do something about it. Yes, the school should certainly help them -- schools should always do their best to educate students. But at a certain point, they need to take responsibility for their own education and their own goals, and if one of those goals is getting a high school diploma, they know what they need to do to get there.
The other kid they interviewed said that she was worried that some of her friends who are not primarily English-speaking would fail the English test, and that that wasn't fair. And I think, oh, honey, did your momma miss the boat on that one. Of course it's not fair. It's also not fair that most people doing the hiring for good jobs speak English; it's not fair that some people got born in this country into English-speaking families and others have had to struggle to learn every word. It isn't. It's just not fair. But until or unless we change our high school diplomas to be certifications in various subjects, a lot of people expect a certain skill set out of high school graduates, and an ability to speak and write halfway grammatical English is part of that set.
I have to admit to a certain personal cynicism here: I don't expect that a high school diploma means much in terms of a skill set, or that its absence means anything opposite. But I can see why people would want to try to make it mean something. Frankly, I can't see any way to set up testing in the current system to make it into a system I approve of more. It's just too screwed up for that. I do think, though, that the students they've interviewed who object to these tests object to them for the wrong reasons. If they want high schools to be anywhere near fair, there are much better areas to protest than an exit exam.
Also in the paper, as an ad, filed in my brain under "signs of the coming apocalypse": Skippy is now selling squeezable peanut butter snack sticks. Ewwwww. Open mouth squeeze peanut butter? Ewwww!
Right. It's now mid-afternoon. I forgot to post this. Oops.
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